America is, contrary to the opinion of many, the most compassionate country in the world toward its immigrants.
If you need proof, I point you last week's decision by the San Joaquin County Planning Commission to allow an Islamic school to be built in Lodi off South Lower Sacramento Road. ["County Planning Commission Approves Islamic Center," Sara Cardine, Lodi News-Sentinel, July 22, 2005]
The 3-1 ruling reflects the commission's willingness to overlook the on-going F.B.I. investigation into possible terrorist related activities by some members of the Farooqia Islamic Center where the school will be located.
Said Commissioner Sandra Carter, defending her vote, "This is a land use decision."
Taj Khan, a local Muslim leader, said, "I'm ecstatic that the commissioners were so unbiased and thoughtful about it."
This is another disappointing comment by Khan who is insinuating that only a "biased" individual could oppose the Islamic school.
The truth is that those who stand opposed can point to multiple reasons why the school is a bad idea.
The K-4 campus will add to the already significant traffic on Lower Sacramento Road. And the large crowds that schools always create will alter the life-style of homeowners and farmers in that agricultural neighborhood.
But traffic and quality of life are minor complaints compared to worries regarding the curriculum frequently offered at Islamic schools.
Daniel Pipes, Director of the Middle East Forum, has studied Islamic schools in North America and has uncovered disturbing trends.
In his March 29, 2005 New York Sun column titled "What Are Islamic Schools Teaching?" Pipes relates a deeply troubling summary of the recent seditious activities at several U.S. Islamic schools:
Pipes isn't the only critic. Washington Post reporters Valerie Strauss and Emily Wax provided an overview of what takes place in some U.S. Islamic schools.
In their February 2002 story titled "Where Two Worlds Collide: Muslims Schools Face Tensions of Islamic, U.S. Views," Strauss and Wax wrote that at the Islamic Saudi Academy in suburban Virginia, where many Arabic speaking diplomats send their children, the school "promotes hatred of non-Muslims and Shiite Muslims."
And, the Post story noted, the students
"file into their Islamic studies class, where the textbooks tell them the Day of Judgment can't come until Jesus Christ returns to Earth, breaks the cross and converts everyone to Islam, and until Muslims start attacking Jews."
The broad question of whether, during the War on Terror, Islamic schools are a good or bad idea, falls to no one—save concerned citizens—to debate.
Currently, the issue is not one for the city, state or federal government to resolve.
That's a shame because there is ample cause for concern.
In the first place the Lodi Muslim community, with one faction currently suing an opposing faction, has not demonstrated the kind of judgment that inspires confidence. ["Feuding Lodi Mosque Members Mull Election of New Board," Sara Cardine, Lodi News-Sentinel, July 22, 2005]
Remember that highly placed mosque officials recruited jailed imams Shabbir Ahmed and Muhammad Adil Khan. Ahmed was a well-known Pakistani anti-American agitator and Taliban supporter before coming to the U.S.
And Khan has recently agreed to be deported in order to avoid criminal charges.
Based on the magnitude of those errors, can we trust the Lodi Muslims to make the right decision regarding the Islamic school curriculum?
And there is another, more burning question. Where will the millions of dollars required to fund the school come from? The amount needed seems well beyond the reach of local Muslims. Will Saudi Arabia, as it has for other schools, provide the money?
A professor at California State University, Northridge, Amir Hussain, urges caution about the Saudi influence in Islamic Schools. Said Hussain, "if that school gets built with Saudi money, do we want that kind of curriculum?' "
The stakes for Lodians are huge. What will be taught at the Islamic school will determine how the next generation of Muslims will interact in our small town.
Will the young students be able to stay faithful to their religion but still emerge as Americans?
Let's keep our fingers crossed. And let's keep a close and skeptical eye on what goes on at the new school.