State Orders Minnesota School for Muslims to Change 2 Islam-Related Areas

The curriculum at a school for Muslims complies with federal and state law, the Minnesota state Education Department said but it directed that other changes be made in religious areas.

The state said Tarek ibn Zayad Academy should change its busing schedule and its handling of Friday prayer services. The shorter prayer services on other days were found to be acceptable, but not the 30-minute service on school grounds on the Muslim holy day.

The department said bus rides home should be available right after school ends; currently students must wait until after a voluntary after-school religious program.

State law requires charter schools — publicly funded schools with more autonomy than traditional public schools — to be nonsectarian. The Education Department investigated after a substitute teacher alleged the school was offering religious instruction in Islam to students.

The school of about 400 students in suburban Inver Grove Heights shares a building with the Muslim American Society of Minnesota and its mosque.

Asad Zaman, the school's executive director, said it was significant that the review found no problems with the curriculum and the school will comply with the state's directives.

"I believe this report vindicates what we have been saying all along in that we are not a Muslim school. We are not a religious school," Zaman said.

He said the school had not determined how it would change its Friday prayer sessions. The review noted that the sessions take place at the school and teachers pray alongside students, which may seem an endorsement of religion.