Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Freedom to Evangelize

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended a Saudi school in Northern Virginia be closed until the government can ensure it is not fostering radical Islam. The AP report stated:

The commission's report says the academy hews closely to the curriculum used at Saudi schools, which they criticize for promoting hatred of and intolerance against Jews, Christians and Shiite Muslims. "Significant concerns remain about whether what is being taught at the ISA promotes religious intolerance and may adversely affect the interests of the United States," the report states. The commission, a creation of Congress, has no power to implement policy on its own. Instead, it makes recommendations to other agencies.

The commission does not offer specific criticism of the academy's teachings beyond its concerns that it too closely mimics a typical Saudi education. The report recommends that the State Department prevail on the Saudi government to shut the school down until the school's textbooks can be reviewed and procedures are put in place to ensure the school's independence form the Saudi Embassy.

Would you be surprised to know the Commission never requested to review the curriculum from the Saudi Academy in Fairfax County?

The school's director-general, Abdalla I. Al-Shabnan, said Wednesday that he had not seen the report. But he said the academy has adjusted its curriculum in recent years and removed some of the inflammatory language that had been included in the Saudi text. The school's curriculum may now serve as a model for the Saudi government to use in continuing its reform of Saudi schools, he said. "There is nothing in our curriculum against any religion," Al-Shabnan said.

He also said he is willing to show the school's curriculum and textbooks to anybody who wants to see them, and he expressed disappointment that the commission did not request materials directly from the school. "We have an open policy," he said. He also pointed out that many of the school's teachers are Christian and Jewish.

So why would the Commission want to close down an Islamic school in the U.S. without having studied their teachings? One need only look at the makeup of the Commission for insight. Just as evangelical Christians disproportionately make up the senior ranks of the U.S. military, they do so on the International Religious Freedom Commission. Out of nine voting commissioners, at least three are evangelical Christians, Chairman Michael Cromartie, Vice Chairman Richard Lamb and Dr. Don Argue. Nina Shea likely shares the same faith given her past writings. To reach the majority of five to pass a recommendation, the group would need to entice only one more member to vote their way. Did the Jewish or Catholic representative swing the vote?

The Commission also raised the ugly state sponsored religion question, citing the school as but an extension of the Saudi government. It appears the group may wish to look into the mirror. How does an international religious freedom group representing the United States get populated by so many evangelicals? Why are two of the top three officer positions occupied by the same fervent Christian group? Forty four percent of the membership and sixty six percent of the leadership positions, something is wrong here.

If they can't visit the Islamic school in America to review their teachings before recommending its closure, what other wave of the hand act based on triangulation might come down the road from a group purporting to spread freedom. I know the George Bush version, he so belligerently spreads.