Muslim civil liberties group seeks FBI probe of school threats

  • Article by: SARAH LEMAGIE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 14, 2008 - 8:32 PM

The Minnesota chapter of a national Islamic civil liberties group has asked the FBI and local law enforcement officers to investigate reported threats against a Twin Cities charter school as possible hate crimes, while a Jewish organization deplored the threats.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) made the request Monday after the director of Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy in Inver Grove Heights told police that he and the school had received threatening and harassing phone messages and e-mails.

The group is concerned about the safety of the school's students, many of whom are Muslim, said CAIR chapter coordinator Chris Schumacher. Tagging the threats as possible hate crimes also makes it clear that prejudice could have prompted them, and "we wanted to bring that to light in case that wasn't already obvious to people," he said.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas also condemned the alleged threats in a statement released Monday.

As of Monday, the charter school had not filed a complaint with the Minneapolis FBI office, but agents will reach out to the school and get more details about the messages, said Special Agent Paul McCabe. Identifying the messages as possible hate crimes would put them under the jurisdiction of federal as well as local law enforcement authorities, he said.

CAIR members are talking with the school about follow-up action that could include a community meeting along the lines of a town hall forum held in Blaine after arsonists set fire to a convenience store owned by a Muslim man in January, Schumacher said.

The K-8 charter school has come under close scrutiny since Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten questioned whether the publicly funded academy promotes the Muslim faith.

The Minnesota Department of Education has begun an investigation of the school in response to Kersten's columns. Director Asad Zaman, who could not be reached for comment Monday, has said the school is nonsectarian.

The reported derogatory messages are under investigation, and police planned extra patrols near the school as a precaution, Inver Grove Heights Police Chief Chuck Kleckner said last week.

Sarah Lemagie • 952-882-9016

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