CAIRO - An American Muslim school was denied the right to participate in a basketball and football competition with other schools in Texas for only one reason; being an Islamic their Islamic faith.
We didn't see how it had anything to do with Tapps or our kids and sports, Cindy Steffens, an administrator with the Houston-based Iman Academy SW, told The New York Times on Sunday, March 4, referring to the name of a private-schools association.
The school sought in 2010 to be a member of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (Tapps), a group that organizes competitions among more than 200 schools in the state.
But Tapps sent a questionnaire to the Islamic school for answers.
Members of the Tapps executive board have little knowledge of Islam and the Qur'an, so it is possible that some of the passages taken from the Qur'an have been taken out of context. If so, please help them understand, said the questionnaire sent to the school.
It also asked if the school taught its students 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?, the questionnaire asked.
The questionnaire also included questions about Islam's position on non-Muslims such as:
Historically, there is nothing in the Qur'an 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 Qur'an 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 religious beliefs?
How does your school address certain Christian concepts? (i.e. celebrating Christmas).
The Islamic school tried to send answers to the schools association to allow their academy in.
We didn't want to bring any negative attention to the school, Steffens told The New York Times.
We know our kids are just as American as their kids. We just wanted to play ball.
The school administrator recalled being asked by Tapps officials during a meeting about her opinion on a recent controversy on the building of a mosque near the 9/11 site in New York.
Several school officials confirmed that Tapps circulated a survey among members about the inclusion of Islamic school in the association.
The survey asked whether it was in the best interest of Tapps to accept Islamic schools for membership, according to a letter from Yager to Keystone parents posted on the school's website.
I felt very uncomfortable with the situation, Brian Yager, head of the Keystone School wrote to parents.
I declined the invitation to take the survey.
Analysts say that conflicts involve youth sports and religion is not unique in Texas.
I think we can sympathize with people trying to satisfy the largest number of people, Paul Horwitz, a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law, said.
But the nation itself is becoming more religiously diverse. That doesn't mean these groups necessarily are not interested in interacting with society at large. We may have thought of them as part of an insulated community, but they're not.
Despite being rejected, the Iman Academy SW is currently arranging games on its own.
Some of its athletes have also joined local city-based leagues.
We're trying to be inclusive, Stephens said.