Virtual Voices

What, we worried?

Religion

Juan Williams' firing by National Public Radio has caused more brows to furrow about attitudes toward Muslims in the United States. With a generous contract renewal from Fox News, Williams isn't suffering. But the question remains: Does a wariness about Muslims mean that backlash is right around the corner? Even though backlash has been lurking around that corner for nine years without lashing?

A case in point: Last week, the Fairfax County (Virginia) Board of Supervisors voted to renew the lease of the controversial Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA). The Saudi Arabian Embassy operates the academy for the stated purpose of enabling students "to excel academically while maintaining the values of Islam and gaining proficiency with the Arabic language." Students are also supposed to "achieve their highest potential while exhibiting civic responsibility and multicultural appreciation." At a packed board meeting, the supervisors heard voices both for and against (mostly against) renewing the lease, and after 90 minutes decided in the affirmative. The fact the Saudi embassy pays $2.6 million annually for the use of the property probably had something to do with that decision.

But the serious concerns raised when the academy first opened have not been allayed, and now the school stands a very good chance of losing its accreditation. The accrediting agency AdvancedEd reported that ISA has failed to meet standards in vision and purpose, governance and leadership, teaching and learning, stakeholder communication, and commitment to continuing improvement-five standards out of seven. During the three days of its on-site inspection the headmaster made a point of being somewhere else, and the entire curriculum was not made available to the review team-particularly the Islamic studies materials.

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If it weren't for the lingering suspicion that students were being taught Sharia law and the virtues of killing infidels-including dissenting Muslims-ISA would at least be tolerated by the community. But suspicions remain because school officials have not been, in the vernacular of the day, "transparent." And because the tenets of the Wahabbi branch of Islam, the official religion of Saudi Arabia, are clear as glass.

Saudi money talks, but Saudi intentions double-talk. Is it OK to say we just don't trust these people?

Janie B. Cheaney
Janie B. Cheaney

Janie lives in Missouri, is a columnist for WORLD, writes novels for young adults, and is the author of the Wordsmith creative writing series. She also reviews books at RedeemedReader.com. Follow Janie on Twitter @jbcheaney.

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