by Richard McCarty
Abigail Spanberger is mad. Real mad – and threatening legal action against the Congressional Leadership Fund. Spanberger is the Democrat candidate for Congress in Virginia’s 7th District. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC, recently obtained a document showing that Spanberger worked at the controversial Islamic Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia. Apparently, she didn’t want voters to find that out.
How was this fact uncovered? Earlier this summer, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was filed with the National Personnel Records Center seeking “access to certain records contained in the official civilian personnel file of former federal employee Abigail Spanberger. Specifically, this request seeks records reflecting Ms. Spanberger’s employment dates, annual salaries, title, and position description.” This request was forwarded to the Postal Service, which also employed Spanberger. In its response to the FOIA request, the Postal Service included a document disclosing her employment at the Islamic Saudi Academy.
Why might Spanberger have wanted to hide the fact that she worked for the school? The school, which was funded by the Saudi embassy, was dubbed “Terror High” by its critics. It had problems before she began working there, and those problems continued after she left. In 2001, two graduates of the school were denied entry to Israel on suspicion that they intended to carry out a suicide mission. The suspicion arose after an apparent farewell note was found in luggage belonging to one of the men.
In 2005, another graduate — who was the school’s valedictorian in 1999 — was convicted of providing material support to al Qaeda and conspiring to assassinate the President; the former student was subsequently sentenced to life in prison. Also in 2005, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called for a probe of the school and questioned whether the school was a “madrassa,” which implies an institution that radicalizes its students.
Although the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom repeatedly sought the school’s textbooks to see if they promoted religious intolerance, the school refused to comply with the Commission’s requests. Nor were the Commission’s concerns groundless. The school used official Saudi government textbooks, and the Commission noted that,
In December 2003, a former Saudi judge and Saudi journalist presented a study on the state religious curricula in boy’s schools in Saudi Arabia… The study found that the approach used in the texts “encourages violence toward others, and misguides the pupils into believing that in order to safeguard their own religion, they must violently repress and even physically eliminate the ‘other.’”
In 2007, the Commission recommended that the Secretary of State shut the school down if the Saudis would not cooperate. Some U.S. Senators also requested that the school be closed until its textbooks were provided for public examination.
In 2008, after the Commission gained access to some of the school’s texts, it highlighted some troubling passages. For example, the Commission noted that one textbook stated that “it is permissible for a Muslim to kill an apostate (a convert from Islam), [or] an adulterer.”
Part of Spanberger’s outrage might be due to the fact that she just doesn’t need any further complications in her race. The last Democrat to represent the district left office in 1971. Even after Democrats whined about the composition of a neighboring district and managed to get unelected judges to draw more favorable lines for them, the 7th District is still a Republican district. In 2016, President Trump carried the district by 6 points; the incumbent, Rep. Dave Brat, won with a 16-point margin that year. And in 2017, which was a bad year for Virginia Republicans, all three statewide Republican candidates won the district by 3-6 points even though they lost statewide.
While Spanberger would like to deflect attention to others, she is the one who is seeking high office, and she is the one who should be answering questions about the Islamic Saudi Academy and her time there.
– – –
Richard McCarty is the Director of Research at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.