The ACLU and an Islamic civil-rights group are calling for investigation of the head of a private-school association who wrote a letter to a Muslim school applying for membership, asking why it would want to join a group that doesn’t fit its beliefs.
In a two-page letter, Edd Burleson, director of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, or TAPPS, asked the Houston school, Dar-Ul-Arqam, 10 questions, including its attitude toward “the spread of Islam in America” and the goals of the school “in this regard.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has demanded an apology and reprimands, calling the letter an “alarmingly intolerant and hostile attitude toward Islam and Muslims,” the Houston Chronicle reports.
“The TAPPS letter, a symbol of religious intolerance, has no place in a nation that was originally built by those seeking asylum from such intolerance,” said Iesa Galloway, executive director of CAIR’s Houston office, in correspondence to the TAPPS board.
Dar-Ul-Arqam, with more than 300 students at three locations, already belongs to a local interscholastic association with grade-school and middle-school programs, but TAPPS would offer scholastic competition for the school’s 19 high schoolers.
The school is under supervision of the Islamic Education Institute of Texas.
TAPPS membership includes 238 schools across the state, including many Catholic and Protestant institutions in the Houston area.
The ACLU of Texas is calling for an investigation, according to Alamdar Hamdani, a Houston member of the ACLU board.
Burleson’s letter quotes a verse from the Quran calling on Muslims to be violent toward non-Muslims. He notes most TAPPS-member schools are Christian, then asks, “Why do you wish to join an organization whose membership is basically in total disagreement with your religious beliefs?”
He suggested some TAPPS members may not be tolerant of Muslims: “Why do you think that the current member schools of TAPPS will not be biased against your school, based on the fundamental difference in your religion and Christianity, since about 90 percent of TAPPS schools embrace Christianity?”
CAIR’s Galloway said Burleson sent a similar letter to an Islamic school in the Dallas area.
Khaled Katbi, a representative of the Houston Muslim school, said he went before the TAPPS board Nov. 4 to seek membership.
Katbi was asked if the school taught from the Quran, and he said it did.
“Their questions were reasonable,” he told the Chronicle. “I did not sense hostility.”
One week later, however, Katbi received the letter from Burleson, which said the school needed to answer certain questions before it could be admitted.
Katbi said he was “astonished.”
Burleson asked: “Do you teach your students to ‘Make war on them (Christians and Jews) until idolatry is no more and Allah’s religion reigns supreme’ (Koran 8:37)?”
Katbi said he did not reply to the questions.
The Chronicle said the TAPPS bylaws do not indicate the assocation is restricted to Christian schools.
The ACLU’s Hamdani said TAPPS would not be able to conduct itself that way if it accepted federal funding. The nonprofit association’s website, however indicates its revenue comes from member dues and sporting-event fees..
“It’s the venom in that letter that’s so disturbing,” Hamdani told the Houston paper. While the letter is structured as a series of questions, he said, “they’re really more assumptions than questions.”
Martin B. Cominsky, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the letter “assumes some offensive stereotypes about what Islam is all about.”
Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s national spokesman in Washington, D.C., said, to his knowledge, other Islamic schools have not encountered difficulties with private-school associations.
The letter reflects “the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment” since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he claimed.
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