Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten has written two columns about the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA) charter school in Inver Grove Heights, Minn. In the first article she alleges taxpayers are paying for an Islamic school and in the other she says a teacher has come forward to ‘break the wall of silence’ about religion at the school.
I’m not trying to argue whether or not TIZA is teaching Islam. It seems like there’s enough evidence to at least raise reasonable questions.
But I think reasonable is the key.
Kersten has gone beyond reasonable in her columns and is throwing any accusation she can at TIZA (And if this is a legitimate issue, why is it left to a columnist? Shouldn’t this involve journalistic research and balance?). Some of her arguments are ridiculous (serving halal food?) and others provide no balanced comparison (like comparable “Christian” charter schools that are located in churches or sponsored by Christian organizations, of which there are several). Her columns read like she’s more concerned with Muslims than she is with the separation of church and state.
Apparently Kersten thinks TIZA is guilty by association. It seems like she’s advocating some kind of witch hunt against Muslims. Like I said before, I’m not saying TIZA is innocent. I’m more concerned about Kersten’s rhetoric. I’d expect a journalistic approach to be more balanced and point to similar situations to prove her point. Instead we get bias and hostility (just read her e-mail exchange with TIZA’s executive director—how much info is she going to ask for in that first question?).
I’m not the only one asking these questions. The Minnesota Monitor has questioned Kersten and the Minnesota Monthly questioned TIZA’s executive director, Asad Zaman, about these issues last year (and pointed out what sounds like bias against Muslims in Kersten’s writings).
It’s clear that TIZA shouldn’t be teaching religion. But even if Kersten’s right it doesn’t justify her bias. It’s that kind of attitude that leads to the paranoid e-mail forwards I’ve received warning of Muslims storming America as undercover agents working to undermine our society. It also leads to the attitude behind the decidedly un-American post-9/11 hate crimes. How about we follow the American tradition of accepting all faiths, instead of attacking one faith and assuming it is guilty until proven innocent?
And I’m not the only baffled by Katherine Kersten’s writing. A quick Google search shows a number of publications and blogs ranting about Kersten’s conservative bias, poor writing and incorrect facts. As long as I’m not alone in scratching my head.