Now you know why I am fighting the Khalil Gibran International Academy.
Are taxpayers footing bill for Islamic school in Minnesota? Katherine Kersten, Minn Star Tribune hat tip agron
Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA) -- named for the Muslim general who conquered medieval Spain -- is a K-8 charter school in Inver Grove Heights. Its approximately 300 students are mostly the children of low-income Muslim immigrant families, many of them Somalis.
The school is in huge demand, with a waiting list of 1,500. Last fall, it opened a second campus in Blaine.
TIZA uses the language of culture rather than religion to describe its program in public documents. According to its mission statement, the school "recognizes and appreciates the traditions, histories, civilizations and accomplishments of the eastern world (Africa, Asia and Middle East)."
But the line between religion and culture is often blurry. There are strong indications that religion plays a central role at TIZA, which is a public school financed by Minnesota taxpayers. Under the U.S. and state constitutions, a public school can accommodate students' religious beliefs but cannot encourage or endorse religion.
TIZA raises troubling issues about taxpayer funding of schools that cross that line.
Asad Zaman, TIZA's principal, declined to allow me to visit the school or grant me an interview. He did not respond to e-mails seeking written replies.
TIZA's strong religious connections date from its founding in 2003. Its co-founders, Zaman and Hesham Hussein, were both imams, or Muslim religious leaders, as well as leaders of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota (MAS-MN).
Since then, they have played dual roles: Zaman as TIZA's principal and the current vice-president of MAS-MN, and Hussein as TIZA's school board chair and president of MAS-MN until his death in a car accident in Saudi Arabia in January.
TIZA shares MAS-MN's headquarters building, along with a mosque.
"A visitor might well mistake Tarek ibn Ziyad for an Islamic school," reported Minnesota Monthly in 2007. "Head scarves are voluntary, but virtually all the girls wear them." The school has a central carpeted prayer space, and "vaguely religious-sounding language" is used.
According to the Pioneer Press, TIZA's student body prays daily and the school's cafeteria serves halal food (permissible under Islamic law). During Ramadan, all students fast from dawn to dusk, according to a parent quoted in the article.
Read it all.