The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in Virginia has approved, on a close 6-4 vote, the extension of a lease for the Islamic Saudi Academy, a Saudi-Embassy-owned school described by local law enforcement as a “breeding ground for terrorists.”
The academy, located in a 148,000-square-foot former public high school in
Alexandria, Va., has graduated several terrorists, including a valedictorian turned al-Qaida agent recently sentenced to life in prison for
plotting to assassinate President Bush.
The hearing preceding the vote last week was contentious, with some 100 people turning
out to protest the school. Ten of them – including Nina Shea of the U.S.
Commission on International Religious Freedom – testified that teachers and
textbooks there promote violence and teach anti-American ideology.
At one point, supervisor Gerald Hyland of Alexandria stormed out of the
auditorium, upset by lusty boos from protesters over his support for the
school. Another supervisor who supports Islamic Saudi Academy, Catherine Hudgins, quietly
joined Hyland outside. They voted for the lease, along with supervisors
Sharon Bulova, Penelope Gross, John Foust and Linda Smyth. Supervisors John
Cook, Michael Fry, Patrick Herrity and Jeffrey McKay opposed it.
Supporters argued that the Saudi academy was good for business. The lease is
expected to generate $2.6 million in county revenues in the first year, with
a 5-percent increase each year after.
Foes, including the antiterror watchdog group Virginia Anti-Shariah Task
Force, or VAST, argued that by continuing to lease the school building to the
Saudi government the county was “enabling the growth of domestic jihad.”
They noted the Saudi school’s alumni include Omar Abu Ali, an al-Qaida
operative convicted of plotting to assassinate Bush. Ali graduated
as valedictorian, and the school proudly published another superlative for him
in its yearbook: “Voted Most Likely to be a Martyr,” a caption under his
A couple of other academy graduates were arrested in Israel last decade for
What’s more, the U.S. government has cited the school for using textbooks
promoting hate and violence against Jews and Christians. Dawood Abdulrahman,
head of the Islamic Studies Department at the academy, maintains the
school recently revised its textbooks to show more tolerance, including
removing all references to “jihad.”
Abdulrahman also serves as a trustee of the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in
neighboring Falls Church, Va. The Saudi-funded mosque has been the subject
of numerous terrorism investigations. Some of the Sept. 11 hijackers received
help finding housing while worshipping there in 2001. At the time, the
mosque employed imam Anwar Awlaki, now a fugitive al-Qaida cleric. The phone
number for the Saudi-funded mosque was found in the address book of one of
the senior al-Qaida planners of the Sept. 11 attacks, who was in Germany at the
The hijackers stayed in an Alexandria apartment complex just across a
highway from the Saudi academy’s campus. It is not clear if they had contact
with academy administration.
The academy’s former comptroller, Ismail Elbarasse, was arrested after Sept. 11
for allegedly casing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland for a possible
terrorist attack. Elbarasse is a founding member of Dar al-Hijrah and served
as the academy’s top accountant for 14 years.
In 2008, academy Director Abdalla Al-Sabnan was arrested for obstruction of
justice related to a child-abuse case.
‘Jihad’ Gerry Connolly
Academy protesters noted that the former chairman of the Fairfax County Board of
Supervisors – Gerry Connolly – “took Saudi money” while voting to keep the
Saudi school open. Connolly, now a U.S. congressman, “received numerous
contributions to his congressional campaign as he was shepherding the last
lease renewal through the board and attacking opponents,” said VAST founder
Lafferty cited data reported in the book “Muslim Mafia”, which show
Connolly received thousands of dollars in donations from several Virginia
Islamists under federal investigation for financing terrorism. In addition,
the book reveals, Connolly received an $18,758 windfall from the Saudi
government’s U.S. public-relations firm – Qorvis Communications – while
fighting to keep open the Saudi academy.
Former Qorvis co-founder and partner Doug Poretz admitted in an e-mail that
“I was responsible for our support of Connolly,” but denied it had anything
to do with the firm’s Saudi account.
“I can assure you that when it comes to Qorvis’ support of Connolly, it had
nothing to do with Saudi Arabia,” said Poretz, who held a fundraiser for
Connolly in his home. “There is no reason for me to be anything than
truthful on this matter.”
After Sept. 11, the FBI investigated Qorvis for distributing Saudi propaganda
under a different name.
Qorvis’ managing partner Michael Petruzzello personally appeared at a news
conference held at Islamic Saudi Academy to defend its textbooks. Petruzzello personally gave
at least $2,300 to Connolly’s congressional campaign. Qorvis was on Saudi
retainer at the time, yet Petruzzello did not report the contribution or
other Qorvis contributions to Connolly in his Foreign Agents Registration
Act report to the Justice Department, according to investigative journalist
and terrorism analyst Paul Sperry, co-author of “Muslim Mafia,” which
exposes radical Saudi and Muslim Brotherhood front groups in America.
“Connolly was busy cashing checks and shilling for the Saudis, but we didn’t
find out about it until after the vote was taken and after he had called the
citizen opposition ‘bigots,’ ” Lafferty said, referring to the last vote on
the Saudi academy’s lease.
Connolly, a Democrat, faces Republican challenger Keith Fimian, a business
owner, in the race for Virginia’s District 11 on Nov. 2. Fimian has called
Connolly a liar, charging that “he will tell you things that are outright
lies.” Connolly’s office declined comment.
“All of the Saudi money buys a lot,” Lafferty said, “but it doesn’t buy the
He and his group have demanded “full disclosure from every member of the
board concerning donations or cash payments they have received from the academy,
Dar al-Hijrah and all other related Muslim Brotherhood front groups.”
Lafferty asserts that receiving funds from these groups “results in a
conflict of interest” in their Islamic Saudi Academy vote.
The renewed academy lease extends the current lease from July 1, 2011, to June