A Houston Islamic academy was denied membership to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools after being grilled about the Koran and the mosque located at Ground Zero.
Iman Academy applied for membership to TAPPS in 2010, but the association denied the school’s request. After being rejected two years ago, Principal Cindy Steffens did not go public with the story, but The New York Times uncovered the Houston academy’s name last week and ran an article about the controversy.
TAPPS represents more than 220 private schools in the state. The association drew national attention last week after refusing to reschedule a basketball game for a Jewish Orthodox day school Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston, which could not play at the time because the players observed the Sabbath. After the parents threatened legal action, Beren was allowed to play its semi-final game.
The Iman Academy received a questionnaire as part of their application to apply for the TAPPS. Steffens said the questionnaire had provocative and loaded questions, including how the school addresses Christmas. Among the questions sent to Iman Academy and the other Islamic schools that applied were:
- Historically, there is nothing in the Koran that fully embraces Christianity or Judaism in the way a Christian and/or a Jew understands his religion. Why, then, are you interested in joining an association whose basic beliefs your religion condemns?
- It is our understanding that the Koran tells you not to mix with (and even eliminate) the infidels. Christians and Jews fall into that category. Why do you wish to join an organization whose membership is in disagreement with your beliefs?
- How does your school address certain Christian concepts? (i.e. celebrating Christmas)
- Does your school teach that the Bible is corrupt? When was the Bible allegedly polluted? Does the Koran actually state that the Bible is polluted?
- What is your attitude about the spread of Islam in America? What are the goals of your school in this regard?
In 2004, two other Islamic schools applied for membership and received a response letter that they perceived as hostile to their faith. They chose not to answer the questions, but Iman Academy did.
School officials were invited to an interview before the TAPPS board in November 2010, and Steffens said one board member said he wanted to discuss the “elephant in the room.” She said the board asked questions that seemed irrelevant to joining an association to play sports, such as asking her opinion about the mosque located near Ground Zero in New York City.
Steffens said another board member told her, “I know all Muslims are not terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.”