Thursday, September 15, 2011

Newark Union Hall Houses Islamic School

 What caught my eye first was a new Islamic school just up the road from where I live.  There is already a mosque and an Islamic Academy not far away called the Islamic Society of Delaware (more on that later) so it kind of surprised me to see another one because while Delaware has a more and more significant Muslim population, it’s not anywhere near as large as other ethnic groups.  I took another look and I realized something else, the new Islamic school (which I later found to be a lower school from Pre-K through 7th Grade) occupies a union hall.  I’ll let that sink in with the following images:

Now, if a union hall housed a Christian school I WOULD have the same immediate reaction.  Why is a union hall housing a school?  So I thought, a union hall, housing an Islamic school was a little strange and since Glenn Beck has been waking America up to the radical Islamic threat teaming up with the unions overseas, I was inspired to “do my own homework” on the school.

It’s called Tarbiyah Islamic School of Delaware and it’s a school for younger children.  The word tarbiyah means to nurture, rear or to take care of a child from stage to stage until he/she becomes obedient and righteous. (Tarbiyah Islamic School of Delaware Facebook Page)  Islamic tarbiyah style education was developed in Egypt by radical Islamists who desired a way to fight back against the “intrusion” of Western Culture.  Simply, the Islamic religious leaders saw young Egyptians struggling with the strict doctrines of Islam while simultaneously seeking out the freedom and inclusion of the American (“Western”) culture.   The “Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, 8, 25 (Spring 2010)” details the development of Islamic tarbiyah in Egypt (which is where the head of the Delaware school is from):
“Islamic tarbiyah, however, is claimed to reestablish the integrity of ummah and Islamic character of the educational system, and make Muslims the real owners of the society, dominant over the cultural and educational society of Egypt.”

“Within the radical Islamist discourse, the main obstacle to inculcating Islamic tarbiyah is the dominance of Western educational and scientific notions. Western domination which is one of the outcomes of Western cultural invasion is believed to be a disease undermining the Islamic character of Egypt.”
“The Islamic tarbiyah strives to produce a complete person with rational, spiritual, and social capacities. Westernization process, however, with its secular, materialist, and individualistic emphasis, is claimed in radical Islamist discourse to threaten the tawhid notion, the all-encompassing and unified character of Islamic education.”

“The historical consciousness of Egyptian radical Islamists also appears to be very strong as the abovementioned moods and motives and the ensuing emic categories demonstrate the extent to which radical Islamists were affected by a traumatic anti-Western attitude. The historical imagination at the root of the radical Islamist discourse on religious education depicts Westernization as a sickness, contamination, or disaster. This imagination, we argue, stems from a trauma process in which the West is portrayed as a single, hegemonic, and harmful cultural totality which has nothing positive to offer to Muslims. In the radical Islamist discourse in Egypt, the West is an “other” against which the idea of Islamic tarbiyah is developed. This other is perceived as a profound threat to the integrity of Egyptian Muslim society, identity, and cultural continuity.”

So the tarbiyah style schools are really a product of Egyptian radical Islamists.  A look inside the school’s leadership shows a deeper link to Egypt.  The school’s leader, Sheikh Muhammad is a graduate of Al-Azhar University in Egypt.  Al Azhar is THE most influential Islamic institute for Sunni Muslims in the world and the largest Muslim learning center in the world.  The school was founded in 970 AD and is the 2nd oldest degree-granting university in Egypt.  Non-religious subjects weren’t added to the curriculum until 1961.  The school’s mission includes the propagation of Islam and Islamic culture (including Shari’a Law).  While some in the Middle East have said that the school is a bastion of moderate Islam, it’s also produced radicals like Hassan al-Banna (founder of the Muslim Brotherhood whose father taught at Al-Ahzar, he studied at Al-Ahzar but also attended Dar ul-Uloom in Cairo), Iss ad-Din al-Qassam (founder of the Black Hand), Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (co-founder of Hammas), Omar Abdel Rahman (currently serving a life term for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing) and countless other “anti-Israel” individuals.  Another prominent graduate and professor at Al-Azhar is Yusuf al-Qaradawi whom Glenn Beck exposed as a radical cleric:

It was Al-Azhar students who left their dorms to swell the numbers in Tahrir Square during the “Arab Spring” in Egypt and who assaulted Lara Logan, who told Egyptian troops NOT to protect their border from Palestinian refugees out of Gaza seeking to launch attacks into Israel and it was Al-Azhar who called bin Laden’s burial at see a “sin”.  28 Al Azhar scholars said that killing large numbers of Israeli citizens was the “noblest act of jihad”

Al-Azhar has developed an interesting relationship with the Egyptian government.  The school/mosque is recognized around the world and the preeminent religious authority in the Sunni Mulsim world and the Egyptian government has used that to their advantage.  They’ve seized the funding sources of Al-Azhar to ensure that THEY control the money and thereby have leverage to basically force the school to recognize the regime’s primacy, support its stability and legitimize its policies.  Meanwhile, the government acknowledges the religious authority of the establishment leaders and allows the religious scholars some latitude.  The Egyptian government, while largely secular (until the Muslim Brotherhood takes over anyway), uses religion to keep its grip on the people.  It was not until the clerics and leaders at Al-Azhar began to call for Mubarak to step down that the people hit the streets.
Now, Al-Azhar is in the middle of a tug of war between secularists and moderate Muslims and the more radical Salafi’s (like the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda and others).  Looking at Egypt now, we see that the Salafi influence is much larger than previously thought.  Al-Ahzar is likely to become more fundamentalist now that there is no regime to influence them to be more moderate in order to work with Western nations.  Al-Ahzar students were among those who broke into the Israeli embassy in Cairo and Al-Ahzar leaders like Qaradawi are leaders in the anti-Israel movement.  Sheikh Muhammad not only studied in Al-Azhar, he taught there as well.  His degree is in Islamic Theology and Shari’a Law.  He is part of the Al-Ahzar ulama who are sent around the world to spread Shari’a law and push for Shari’a compliance.  Now, this doesn’t make him a radical, but it DOES lead to enough questions to ask, what do you believe Sheikh Muhammad?  Do you believe in the propagation of Shariah Law?  Should America become Shari’a compliant? 
There are others at the school with questionable ties, that support radical clerics and anti-Westerners.