The logo for the publicly funded Tarek ibn Ziyad school in Minnesota
Officials at a charter school in Minnesota attacked a TV news crew yesterday that came to investigate whether the publicly funded institution complied with a state order to stop accomodating Islamic prayers and religious programs.
KSTP-TV in Minneapolis-St.Paul reported police are probing the incident at the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., which is housed in the same building as a mosque and the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim American Society. The station said a photographer was injured while wrestling with two school officials over a camera.
As WND reported, a substitute teacher at the school reported religion appeared to be a significant educational focus. Amanda Getz said her duties included taking students to the bathroom, four at a time, to perform “their ritual washing.” She told a Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist teachers also “led the kids into the gym, where a man dressed in white with a white cap, who had been at the school all day” led prayer.
The school, which came under investigation after a series of Star-Tribune reports, yesterday was ordered by state officials to comply with state and federal law. The academy must no longer allow Islamic prayers on school grounds and must stop delaying transportation until an after-school religious program is completed, the state officials said.
The state, according to the Minneapolis newspaper, found the 30-minute prayers take up so much time they could burden non-praying students and prevent the school from fulfilling its required number of instruction hours. The state report also noted allowing teachers to participate, even though they don’t lead prayers, could give the impression the school endorses Islam.
The KSTP crew was dispatched to the school to cover the story and obtain reaction from school officials, according to a statetment on the station’s website .
“While on school grounds, our crew was attacked by school officials,” the station said. “Our photographer was injured while wrestling with the two men over the camera. Our photographer was examined by paramedics and suffered minor shoulder and back injuries.”
The Minnesota Department of Education’s deputy commissioner, Chas Anderson, said the agency “goes to great lengths to make clear to charter schools and their sponsors that, while schools should appropriately accommodate students’ religious beliefs, they must be ‘nonsectarian’ under the state’s charter school law.”
Along with the issue of communal prayer giving the appearance of state sponsorship, the state said the school should stop delaying its bus service until completion of the after-school Islam course, so students who don’t particupate can go home immediately.
“We have directed the school to take appropriate corrective actions regarding these matters and will continue to provide oversight to ensure that the school is in compliance with state and federal law,” Anderson said.
KSTP reporter Chris O’Connell told Fox News today he and his photographer had been on public property in front of the school trying to reach school officials for an hour. Another camera crew arrived and went directly onto the property to try to obtain a comment, so he and his cameraman followed, he said.
O’Connell said that as soon as he and his cameraman stepped onto the school property, two men from the school “came right out” and tried to wrestle the camera away.
“There were two guys on my cameraman,” he said.
O’Connell called police.
“It’s quite clear they targeted us as a station,” he said.
He said police were investigating various charges related to the cameraman’s injuries, as well as possible trespassing charges against the news crew brought by school officials.
“The police are going to try to look into our videotape,” O’Connell said. “Our competing station also got video from another point of view. It’s pretty telling video. You see it all go down.”
The state report said many of the school’s operations comply with state charter school law and federal guidelines for prayer in schools, but the two areas – the formalized Islamic prayer time during the school day and the plan delaying transportation home for children until after the post-class religious instruction is finished – must be addressed.
School director Asad Zaman told the Star-Tribune, “I now have proof that this is not a religious school.”
The Star-Tribune previously documented that the charter high school for kindergarten through eighth-grade students is named after a Muslim warlord, shares the address of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, is led by two imams, is composed almost exclusively (99 percent) of blacks and has as its top goal to preserve “our values.”
And it’s all funded by the taxpayers of Minnesota.
Star-Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten wrote she was denied permission to visit the school. The school also has declined to return WND telephone requests for an interview.
The institution has drawn criticism from a number of observers, including Robert Spencer, who monitors such developments at Jihad Watch.
“Can you imagine a public school founded by two Christian ministers, and housed in the same building as a church? Add to that – in the same building – a prominent chapel. And let’s say the students are required to fast during Lent, and attend Bible studies right after school. All with your tax dollars,” he wrote. “Inconceivable? Sure.”
If such a place existed, Spencer said, “the ACLU lawyers would descend on it like locusts. It would be shut down before you could say ‘separation of church and state,’ to the accompaniment of New York Times and Washington Post editorials full of indignant foreboding, warning darkly about the growing influence of the Religious Right in America.”
The substitute teacher Getz told Kersten after she spent the day at the school, “The prayer I saw was not voluntary. The kids were corralled by adults and required to go to the assembly where prayer occurred.”
Kersten previously revealed other links between the school and Islam, including a carpeted space for prayer, halal food in the cafeteria and fasting for students during Ramadan.
The Muslim American Society of Minnesota has not hidden the fact that the charter school is located at its facility. The published program for its annual convention last year – featuring the theme “Establishing Islam in Minnesota” – asked, “Did you know that MAS-MN … houses a full-time elementary school?”
On the adjacent page was an ad for Tarek ibn Ziyad.