MCLU v. TIZA

The Muslim American Society is a front group for the Muslim Brotherhood, out of which the genocidal terrorist group Hamas emerged. The Minnesota chapter of the Muslim American Society has been the source of local controversies involving the purported observance of Sharia in public facilities. The MAS Minnesota is perhaps best known as the proponent of the fatwa prohibiting Muslim taxi drivers from transporting travelers carrying alcohol from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The MAS Minnesota also houses a charter school in the Twin Cities suburb Inver Grover Heights. The school is Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy. One might say that TIZA is an Islamic school in all but name, except that the name is of course Islamic. Tarek ibn Ziyad was the Muslim conqueror of Spain. As for the rest of the school, all or almost all of its students are Muslim, its principal is an imam, its sponsor is Islamic Relief-USA, and it sits in a building owned by, and shared with, the Muslim American Society of Minnesota as well as its Al-Aman Mosque. TIZA rents the space in which the school operates from MAS Minnesota.

TIZA’s calendar and days are set up to accommodate Muslim students. School breaks for prayers at 1:00 in the carpeted prayer area in the middle of the school. TIZA’s cafeteria is halal. Arabic as a second language is mandatory.

According to a document filed by TIZA with the Minnesota Department of Education, it provides after-school (religious) instruction “conducted by various non-profit organizations” that is the main reason given by 77 percent of parents for sending their children to TIZA. The after-school instruction is overwhelmingly the primary reason given by parents for sending their children to TIZA.

Katherine Kersten blew the whiste on TIZA in her now discontinued Star Tribune column. Kersten reported, for example, that MAS Minnesota provides after-school religious instruction at TIZA. School buses wait outside the school for the students to complete their after-school religious instruction at the end of the day.

State Rep. Mindy Greiling is chairman of the Minnesota House of Representatives K-12 Finance Division. She called for Kersten’s firing by the Star Tribune as a result of Kersten’s columns. I wrote about Greiling’s contribution to the TIZA controversy here and here. Greiling never responded to our message asking her to specify what facts she disputed in Kersten’s Star Tribune columns on TIZA.

CAIR also entered the fray on behalf of TIZA. CAIR of course holds itself out as a civil rights organization representing Muslims in the United States, but it is in fact a front group serving the interests of Hamas and its friends among the offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood. Thus CAIR found itself named an unindicted co-conspirator in the government’s prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation, another Hamas front group.

Sensing a story here, the Wall Street Journal commissioned Kersten to bring its readers up to speed on it. This past June the Journal featured Kersten’s “Charter schools shouldn’t promote Islam.” Kersten’s Wall Street Journal column provided a good summary of the story as of this past spring.

Kersten demonstrated under great pressure that Muslim activists have found a workable seam in the purported separation of church and state in Minnesota. If TIZA and other similar charter schools continue to receive public funding, Minnesota’s burgeoning Muslim population will be educated at taxpayers’ expense in essentially Islamic schools where they will receive religious instruction courtesy of the likes of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota.

Kersten’s columns inspired an investigation of TIZA by the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union commencing this past spring. Yesterday the MCLU filed a lawsuit against TIZA, its board, and state authorities in federal court seeking to have TIZA’s operation as an Islamic school declared unconstitutional and enjoined under the First Amendment.

The MCLU’s 20-page complaint does an especially good job of setting forth the interlocking relationships among TIZA, MAS Minnesota and affililated entities set up to facilitate the mutual support running between TIZA and the MAS Minnesota. The MCLU has posted a related organization chart.

It should be difficult for TIZA and its supporters to blow off the MCLU as a bigot with an axe to grind. Executive director Chuck Samuelson is a principled liberal, as his board members must be. I spoke with Samuelson briefly about the lawsuit yesterday. He said that it was “a sad day that we had to do this.” He knows that TIZA and its supporters will use accusations of racism and bigotry to stigmatize his organization. He had already heard them by the time I spoke to him yesterday.

I asked Samuelson what in his view put TIZA over the line. He said that it wasn’t any one thing, but rather a series of small steps and structural components that erased any meaningful line between MAS Minnesota and the school. “It’s absolutely seamless,” he said. He emphasized the 350 megabytes of documents that MCLU had compiled in the course of its research on the school. Among those reporting on the lawsuit today are the Star Tribune, the Pioneer Press, Minnesota Public Radio, and KARE 11 News.

The MCLU lawsuit should have the effect of inspiring a serious look at the rest of the Twin Cities Muslim-oriented charter schools and on the constellation of Islamist forces at work in Minnesota. It is in any event the fitting sequel to the story Kersten told in her series of columns on TIZA and an important development in the story.

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