TAPPS denies membership to Islamic school

March 5, 2012 8:21:08 PM PST
Complaints against a private school system are resurfacing after the recent battle over beliefs and basketball nearly kept a local school on the sidelines.

School administrators at the Islamic academy say they want their student athletes to have as many opportunities as possible so they applied to be part of the private school league.

Senior Adam Abdur-Rahmen is focused on his future plans, but sports have played an important part of his life, too, at Iman Academy. From soccer to basketball, he's always looking for tougher competition.

"We're very disappointed that we couldn't partake in their activities," Abdur-Rahmen said.

Teams at the Muslim school say they'd like to play in a league with bigger schools. It might even give some players enough exposure for a college scholarship.

"It would be very important and encouraging to other kids because we are Muslims but also Muslim Americans so we deserve the same rights as everybody else," Abdur-Rahmen said.

So administrators applied to be part of TAPPS, the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools.

"Our children have all sorts of friends, it doesn't mean that they can only play sports with Muslims; we should be playing with everybody," principal Cindy Steffens said.

Steffens says they followed the steps and paid the fees and answered a series of questions about their faith, some which surprised them.

"They did ask me what we thought about the masjid at the Ground Zero area in New York, I answered it," Steffens said.

Steffens says they were disappointed their membership was denied and they were never given a full explanation.

The director of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools says the organization has "no comment at this time."

"It's not that our children are going to go there and try to convert their children to Islam; we're not there for that, we just wanted to play ball," Steffens said.

It's not the first time TAPPS has been in the news. Just last week, Houston's Beren Academy made international headlines when the boys basketball team said it would not play in the semi-finals of the state championship unless TAPPS changed the schedule to accommodate the Jewish school's religious beliefs, which observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.

While the team eventually lost to Abilene Christian, they played at a new time and location after parents filed a court injunction.

The leadership here at the Iman Academy says they weren't seeking any publicity in their effort to join the league.

"I'm not sure that Texas is ready to be inclusive with us; we're ready, we're ready to move on," Steffens said.

They just want the students like Abdur-Rahmen to have as many opportunities as they can.

"It was definitely crushing but hopefully we can gain those rights to play," Abdur-Rahmen said.

The principal says they have had some other schools come forward since then and agreed to play the academy. They have not appealed the TAPPS decision. School administrators say they are still hopeful they will one day be allowed in the league.