Islamic Saudi Academy

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Islamic Saudi Academy / الاكاديمية الاسلامية السعودية
8333 Richmond Highway
Alexandria, Virginia, 22309
Funding type Private
Founded 1984
Principal Abdulrahman Alghofaili
Grades 1st to 12th
Language English & Arabic
Campus Suburban

Coordinates: 38°43′53″N 77°06′07″W / 38.73146°N 77.101954°W / 38.73146; -77.101954

The Islamic Saudi Academy of Washington (Arabic: الاكاديمية الاسلامية السعودية‎) is an International Baccalaureate (IB) World university preparatory school in Virginia, accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and authorized by IB in December 2008.[1] It has classes from pre-kindergarten to twelfth grade, and has a current enrollment of more than 1200 students.[2] It is funded by the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C..[3] In 2011, ISA graduated its first international baccalaureate class. 4 students received their full IB diploma and one of them was able to earn bilingual diploma. As of 2007, approximately 30% of the roughly 1,000 students were Saudi citizens.[4]


The school was founded in 1984 by the Government of Saudi Arabia. Located in Alexandria, Virginia, the school offers instruction from pre-kindergarten through twelve. The school is bilingual, with classes in English and Arabic.


The school was founded in August 1984 by a decree of King Fahd and originally served grades K-6.[5] The Saudi government purchased the 34-acre campus of the former Fairfax Christian School in Fairfax from owner Robert L. Thoburn for $3 million as a site for the school.[5]

The school proved so popular that by 1986 the school rented the former Dunn Loring Elementary School, which had closed in 1978, to provide space for its burgeoning student body.[6]

Following the leasing of the Dunn Loring site, the school expanded its education program to include grades 7-12.[7]

When the lease on the Dunn Loring site expired, the school leased the former Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, spending $5 million to renovate the nearly 50-year-old building.[7][8] The academy moved into the Alexandria site in 1989.[9]

Programs and activities[edit]

The school's curriculum includes Islamic studies, Islam for beginners, Arabic language, Arabic ASL, Mathematics, Science, Language Arts, Computers, Art, English, Social Studies, and Physical Education. The school also has an Advanced Placement Program and an English as a second language program.[2] and the school also has the IB program and offers IB English A1 + B, IB Arabic A1+B, IB Biology HL, IB Math HL + SL, IB Art, IB History HL+SL, and IB Psychology, so its students can graduate with an IB diploma.

The ISA is a member of the Northern Virginia Independent Athletic Conference (NVIAC), and participates in the basketball and soccer leagues, fielding both boys' and girls' varsity teams. The school has 3 football fields.[10] The school is a supporter of the Mount Vernon Youth Athletic Association, an all-volunteer community program that uses athletics to teach discipline and good citizenship to area youths. They also now have a Teen center for kids to get better at sports. The school participates in various educational and leadership-oriented extracurricular activities. There is an annual science fair and a Shakespearian drama program. Students are active participants in the Model United Nations program, the Presidential Classroom program,and various other programs.[2]


ISA has been accused of promoting religious intolerance.

On February 23, 2005, the day after Ahmed Omar Abu Ali was indicted on terrorism charges, New York Senator Charles Schumer issued a press release questioning whether the ISA was "another madrassa" (i.e. a school teaching radical Islamic theology. Madrassa is the Arabic word for school, but in America the term is often used incorrectly.) Senator Schumer sent letters to Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan and U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.[11]

In October 2007, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom urged the US State Department to shut down ISA on the grounds it teaches religious intolerance.[4] The Commission accused the ISA of promoting religious intolerance that could prove a danger to the United States. In response ISA officials stated that they had removed offensive passages from the books the previous summer, but did not explain why the Saudi embassy officials had refused to personally make the books available to the Commission.[12] Officials of ISA criticized the USCIRF, saying that the panel unfairly damaged the school's reputation, and invited the commission members to review the books; an offer which was refused.[4] According to the Commission chair he did not take up the academy's offer of making the book available because academy officials wanted mutually acceptable scholars and translators to review the textbooks.[4]

Textbook passages[edit]

In June 2008, another USCIRF report stated that textbooks at ISA teach students that it is permissible for Muslims to kill adulterers and converts from Islam, and also teach that, "The Jews conspired against Islam and its people."[13][14][15] ISA officials issued a press relate stating that the aforementioned textbooks are sorely outdated, and once again invited the USCIRF to visit its campus to review more recent materials. The rejection of such an offer it stated would lead the ISA to doubt the intentions of the investigation.[16]

Land lease[edit]

ISA's campus is leased from the Fairfax County government on a year-to-year lease, and the issue has occasionally been raised that perhaps Fairfax should not continue leasing the land if the ISA's textbooks do promote terrorism or intolerance. On June 23, 2008, Fairfax County's Board of Supervisors made a formal request to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to determine if Fairfax County should continue to lease the land.[17]

Notable individuals connected to ISA[edit]

  • Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, valedictorian of the academy in 1999, was convicted in 2005 on charges of providing material support to the al Qaeda terrorist network. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. His defense team argued that his first confession in Saudi Arabia had been extracted under torture, but the judge ruled his confession admissible. Courts have upheld his conviction but pushed for a longer sentence.[18]
  • Mohammed Osman Idris and Mohammed el-Yacoubi, both former students of ISA were denied entry to Israel in Dec 2001, under suspicion of planning to carry out a suicide martyr attack.[19] The two were departing JFK International Airport when a letter was found in el-Yacoubi's luggage which was characterized as "a farewell letter...for a suicide mission in the name of Jihad."[20] The two hastily boarded a flight to Jerusalem, leaving behind their belongings. However, when the flight arrived in Israel, the two were detained and sent back to the U.S. Idris was later charged with lying to a federal grand jury investigating terrorism.[21]
  • Ayman Shawky, a former footballer and a participant in the 1990 World Cup representing Egypt, is now a teacher in the physical education department and is also the coach of the varsity soccer team.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Islamic Saudi Academy". Retrieved August 28, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ McEvers, Kelly. "Americans Complain About a Saudi School in Suburban Virginia." Slate. Tuesday September 8, 2009. Retrieved on November 5, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d Strauss, Valerie (16 November 2007). "School Officials Say U.S. Panel's Call for Closure Hurt Image". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 September 2015.  Washington Post article about ISA's response to USCIRF report from October 2007
  5. ^ a b Clifford, George, III (21 December 1984). "Cultures Mix in Fairfax". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  6. ^ "Saudis to Rent Va. School". 10 May 1986. Retrieved 10 September 2015 – via Proquest. (subscription required (help)). 
  7. ^ a b Mansfield, Virginia (21 July 1988). "Vacant School May be Renovated, Leased". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 September 2015.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Mansfield1988-7-21" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  8. ^ Mansfield, Virginia (4 August 1988). "Saudi Academy to Fund Fairfax School Face Lift". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  9. ^ Downey, Kirstin (22 May 2008). "Board Extends Saudi School's Lease". Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Salmon, Jacqueline L.; Strauss, Valerie (19 October 2007). Washington Post "State Dept. Urged to Shut Saudi School in Fairfax" Check |url= value (help). The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  13. ^ "Saudi Arabia: USCIRF Confirms Material Inciting Violence, Intolerance Remains in Textbooks Used at Saudi Government's Islamic Saudi Academy" (Press release). Washington: United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. 11 June 2008. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  14. ^ Hume, Brit (13 June 2008). Fox News "Homegrown Hate" Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  15. ^ Gienger, Viola (11 June 2008). Bloomberg "Saudi Academy's Books Promote Violence, Intolerance, Panel Says" Check |url= value (help). Bloomberg. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  16. ^ ISA press release June 13, 2008 Archived June 30, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Gardner, Amy (24 June 2008). "Board Seeks Input On Islamic School". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 September 2015.  Article discussing Fairfax County's request to the State Dept. regarding the land lease to the ISA.
  18. ^ Reuters Article: Court upholds conviction in Bush al Qaeda plot
  19. ^ [1][dead link]
  20. ^ New York Daily News
  21. ^ Criminal complaint in U.S. v. Mohammed Osman Idris

External links[edit]