A teacher fired from Philadelphia’s Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy has filed a civil suit against the school and its principal, alleging extraordinary anti-black racism at the school.
Arslan Shaikh served as a “general studies” teacher with Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy from August 2020 to April 28, 2023. In his filed complaint, he alleges, throughout his time at the school, he observed “disproportionate allocation of discipline and removal of black children relative to their non-black counterparts.”
Moreover, Shaikh claims that a report he wrote, documenting racist comments aimed at black students by other students, was “edited … to omit [mention of] the overt racism.”
He also alleges that “non-black children were given privileges denied to black children. On one occasion, several non-black students received failing grades. These grades were then changed to ‘passing’ by Defendants. In the three years that Plaintiff taught at Al-Aqsa, he never saw this benefit conferred to black children.”
On April 27, 2023, Shaikh claims that during a conversation with the school principal, Shireen Hammoudeh, he was informed of a complaint lodged against him by students. Principal Hammoudeh reportedly told Shaikh that the complaint was only filed because “they’re black and are trying to manufacture a lawsuit.” She allegedly promised to “find a reason to get rid of [the black students].”
Shaikh informed other administration members at the school about the “display of overt racism,” only to be fired a few hours later.
The school’s 2019 “parent-student handbook” declares that Western culture is “toxic to Muslims.” And the uniform guides for the school require that female students be completely covered.
The Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy is part of the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society, a prominent Islamist mosque in downtown Philadelphia, closely involved with hardline national Islamist groups.
In 2019, radical imam Abdelmohsen Abouhatab spoke at the mosque, declaring “jews” to be “the vilest people in terms of their moral values, their nature, and their violation of agreements.”
In a previous sermon at the mosque, Abouhatab said of the Jews: “The propaganda and the media are controlled by them. They make you see things in an altered and inflated way. They make you think that power lies in castles, fortresses, and weapons – that power lies with 15 million people who own and control the riches of the world.”
The mosque has run multiple radical events, such as claims that only “Islamophobia” is driving the “war on terror.” One particular event was addressed by Islamist activist Maha Hilal, then-head of the Coalition for Civil Freedoms (CCF). The Middle East Forum’s Benjamin Baird notes that CCF is “an Islamist activist group founded by a convicted terrorist that functions as a de facto ‘martyrs fund’ for American jihadists and their families.”