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Minnesota taxpayers are funding an Islamic school - a teacher breaks the wall of silence!

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Filed: Timeline

By KATHERINE KERSTEN, Star Tribune

April 9, 2008

Recently, I wrote about Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA), a K-8 charter school in Inver Grove Heights. Charter schools are public schools and by law must not endorse or promote religion.

Evidence suggests, however, that TIZA is an Islamic school, funded by Minnesota taxpayers.

TIZA has many characteristics that suggest a religious school. It shares the headquarters building of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, whose mission is "establishing Islam in Minnesota." The building also houses a mosque. TIZA's executive director, Asad Zaman, is a Muslim imam, or religious leader, and its sponsor is an organization called Islamic Relief.

Students pray daily, the cafeteria serves halal food - permissible under Islamic law -- and "Islamic Studies" is offered at the end of the school day.

Zaman maintains that TIZA is not a religious school. He declined, however, to allow me to visit the school to see for myself, "due to the hectic schedule for statewide testing." But after I e-mailed him that the Minnesota Department of Education had told me that testing would not begin for several weeks, Zaman did not respond -- even to urgent calls and e-mails seeking comment before my first column on TIZA.

Now, however, an eyewitness has stepped forward. Amanda Getz of Bloomington is a substitute teacher. She worked as a substitute in two fifth-grade classrooms at TIZA on Friday, March 14. Her experience suggests that school-sponsored religious activity plays an integral role at TIZA.

Arriving on a Friday, the Muslim holy day, she says she was told that the day's schedule included a "school assembly" in the gym after lunch.

Before the assembly, she says she was told, her duties would include taking her fifth-grade students to the bathroom, four at a time, to perform "their ritual washing."

Afterward, Getz said, "teachers led the kids into the gym, where a man dressed in white with a white cap, who had been at the school all day," was preparing to lead prayer. Beside him, another man "was prostrating himself in prayer on a carpet as the students entered."

"The prayer I saw was not voluntary," Getz said. "The kids were corralled by adults and required to go to the assembly where prayer occurred."

Islamic Studies was also incorporated into the school day. "When I arrived, I was told 'after school we have Islamic Studies,' and I might have to stay for hall duty," Getz said. "The teachers had written assignments on the blackboard for classes like math and social studies. Islamic Studies was the last one -- the board said the kids were studying the Qu'ran. The students were told to copy it into their planner, along with everything else. That gave me the impression that Islamic Studies was a subject like any other."

After school, Getz's fifth-graders stayed in their classroom and the man in white who had led prayer in the gym came in to teach Islamic Studies. TIZA has in effect extended the school day -- buses leave only after Islamic Studies is over. Getz did not see evidence of other extra-curricular activity, except for a group of small children playing outside. Significantly, 77 percent of TIZA parents say that their "main reason for choosing TIZA ... was because of after-school programs conducted by various non-profit organizations at the end of the school period in the school building," according to a TIZA report. TIZA may be the only school in Minnesota with this distinction.

Why does the Minnesota Department of Education allow this sort of religious activity at a public school? According to Zaman, the department inspects TIZA regularly -- and has done so "numerous times" -- to ensure that it is not a religious school.

But the department's records document only three site visits to TIZA in five years -- two in 2003-04 and one in 2007, according to Assistant Commissioner Morgan Brown. None of the visits focused specifically on religious practices.

The department is set up to operate on a "complaint basis," and "since 2004, we haven't gotten a single complaint about TIZA," Brown said. In 2004, he sent two letters to the school inquiring about religious activity reported by visiting department staffers and in a news article. Brown was satisfied with Zaman's assurance that prayer is "voluntary" and "student-led," he said. The department did not attempt to confirm this independently, and did not ask how 5- to 11-year-olds could be initiating prayer. (At the time, TIZA was a K-5 school.)

Zaman agreed to respond by e-mail to concerns raised about the school's practices. Student "prayer is not mandated by TIZA," he wrote, and so is legal. On Friday afternoons, "students are released ... to either join a parent-led service or for study hall." Islamic Studies is provided by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, and other "nonsectarian" after-school options are available, he added.

Yet prayer at TIZA does not appear to be spontaneously initiated by students, but rather scheduled, organized and promoted by school authorities.

Until recently, TIZA's website included a request for volunteers to help with "Friday prayers." In an e-mail, Zaman explained this as an attempt to ensure that "no TIZA staff members were involved in organizing the Friday prayers."

But an end run of this kind cannot remove the fact of school sponsorship of prayer services, which take place in the school building during school hours. Zaman does not deny that "some" Muslim teachers "probably" attend. According to federal guidelines on prayer in schools, teachers at a public school cannot participate in prayer with students.

In addition, schools cannot favor one religion by offering services for only its adherents, or promote after-school religious instruction for only one group. The ACLU of Minnesota has launched an investigation of TIZA, and the Minnesota Department of Education has also begun a review.

TIZA's operation as a public, taxpayer-funded school is troubling on several fronts. TIZA is skirting the law by operating what is essentially an Islamic school at taxpayer expense. The Department of Education has failed to provide the oversight necessary to catch these illegalities, and appears to lack the tools to do so. In addition, there's a double standard at work here -- if TIZA were a Christian school, it would likely be gone in a heartbeat.

TIZA is now being held up as a national model for a new kind of charter school. If it passes legal muster, Minnesota taxpayers may soon find themselves footing the bill for a separate system of education for Muslims.

http://www.startribune.com/local/17406054.html


Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.

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Filed: Citizen (apr) Country: Morocco
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TIZA is now being held up as a national model for a new kind of charter school. If it passes legal muster, Minnesota taxpayers may soon find themselves footing the bill for a separate system of education for Muslims.

Why is it being held up as a model and by whom? And how will it "pass legal muster" when it seems so clearly in violation?

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this is wrong


"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies."

Senator Barack Obama
Senate Floor Speech on Public Debt
March 16, 2006



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A Local Community College has put in a Prayer room for Muslims and feet wash stations also, at taxpayer expense.

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i do not believe that any state or local funds need to go to any religious organization or be used for that purpose


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To be honest I don't think there is anything wrong with this but I know it goes against the liberal interpretation of the US constitution. I know back home the government looks out for the community. Which means working with all.

How can we complain about this when you have groups like the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints building fortresses. Now if that is not the dumbest thing I have ever seen I don't know what is..

Edited by Boo-Yah!

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the 400 richest American households earned a total of $US138 billion, up from $US105 billion a year earlier. That's an average of $US345 million each, on which they paid a tax rate of just 16.6 per cent.

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I don't believe in public money going to private schools, whether they be sectarian or non-sectarian.

I'm curious though, how many sectarian private schools also receive funding from government. If someone is going to complain about public money being given to this school, then they should look into all sectarian schools being funded by government.


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Filed: AOS (apr) Country: Brazil
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The woman who wrote this column is known for overreaction and exaggeration. She's also a complete idiot. One of the stupidest women I've ever seen in print. I wouldn't get in a tizzy about this because it may or may not be true. If I were that school I wouldn't let Katherine Kersten in either. Only bad could come of it. She's also going off one source -- some substitute teacher.

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Once upon a time I worked for a textbook publisher. I had no idea that in some areas parochial schools received Title 1 money [money from the Federal Government]. The basis of getting funding was income breakdown of students [the more students whose families would qualify for low cost or no cost meals, the more Title 1 money the school would receive]. I'm not sure if it was thru state regulations or municipal regulations that the parochial schools would get this money - it was some weird trickle down thing from the federal government. Not sure if this practice still goes on - this was a good 5 years ago.

There are many many charter schools that hedge on being religious if not outright religious. Whether or not you agree they should exist is a personal opinion I guess. For me, as long as no student is being forced to ascribe be a certain doctrine and the community and the families are ok with it, it's their call. Maybe it works well in their community, if it doesn't it's up to that community to figure out how to deal with it.

As for having concessions for religious needs in public places, for me personally I have an all or nothing stance. Either concede to those who have requests or concede to no one - you're just asking for trouble if you concede to just a few. I can't imagine having to have kosher options in a cafeteria and then say no to a request for halal options. You're just setting yourself up for a hornet's nest of legal issues, press issues, and weirdness from all sides.

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update... they don't fly the American flag.

"State law requires the school to fly an American flag during school hours, however no flag flies outside of TIZA Academy.

Zaman told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he didn’t know how to work the flagpole."

yeah right :rolleyes:

http://kstp.com/article/stories/S407036.shtml?cat=1


"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies."

Senator Barack Obama
Senate Floor Speech on Public Debt
March 16, 2006



barack-cowboy-hat.jpg
90f.JPG

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update... they don't fly the American flag.

"State law requires the school to fly an American flag during school hours, however no flag flies outside of TIZA Academy.

Zaman told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he didn’t know how to work the flagpole."

yeah right :rolleyes:

http://kstp.com/article/stories/S407036.shtml?cat=1

the mystery deepens


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USE THE REPORT BUTTON INSTEAD OF MESSAGING A MODERATOR!

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Filed: Country: Morocco
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As a Minneapolis resident, I would second what Alex + R said: do not believe everything you read from the writer of this story, Katherine Kersten. She is an ultra-right-wing columnist in the Minneapolis Star Tribune known for being inflammatory.

That said, I have met several teachers from this school at charter school trainings--they all seem to be intelligent, open-minded people who have great things to say about the quality of education going on in their school. I heard no comments about the religious aspects of their school, and, I'm not sure how relevant this is, these teachers were not Muslim!


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