- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Fairfax County officials are reviewing Arabic-language textbooks at a private Islamic school after a federal panel’s recommendation that the school be closed.

The county does not expect to find problems with the textbooks at the Islamic Saudi Academy, in McLean, but wants to study the issue “to put the matter to rest,” county spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald said yesterday.

Earlier this month, a federal human rights panel recommended the academy be shut down until a review was conducted to ensure the school is not espousing radical Islam. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in a report issued Oct. 17 that it had no direct evidence of a problem at the academy but is concerned that the school closely mimics a typical Saudi education, which some critics say promotes intolerance of Christians, Jews and Shi’ite Muslims.

The academy, subsidized by the Saudi government, has nearly 1,000 students in grades K-12 at two campuses, in Alexandria and Fairfax. The Alexandria site is leased from Fairfax County.

The school said it has modified its curriculum to remove problematic passages from the textbooks. The academy also said it would have provided copies of its textbooks to the federal commission if it had requested them. Commission officials have acknowledged they did not approach the school directly to request a review of the textbooks.

Miss Fitzgerald said a county worker familiar with Arabic volunteered to review and translate the texts after county Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland requested a review. She said the county is not concerned about the contents, but as the landlord it wants to investigate in light of the commission’s report.

“In order to put the issue to rest, these actions are being taken,” Miss Fitzgerald said. “I’m sure there won’t be anything in there that people would find objectionable.”

The academy also has promised to make its texts available to journalists who wish to review them.

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