Syria to bar foreign students from studying Islam in private schools

Posted: Friday, March 12, 2004

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) Syria will no longer allow foreign students to study Islam and Islamic law in private schools, according to instructions handed down by the Interior Ministry.

Salah Kuftaro, the head of the Abu Nour Islamic Foundation, a private theological school, said the order takes effect for the next school year.

''No new foreign students will be admitted to private schools in the next (academic) year,'' Kuftaro told The Associated Press last week.

Although Kuftaro stressed that the measure was ''not taken under foreign pressure,'' it follows the terror-related arrests abroad of some Muslims who were found to have studied in Islamic schools in Syria.

The most publicized of these has been Capt. James Yee, an American Muslim military chaplain at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, who is accused of mishandling classified information and other charges. Authorities had initially tried to build a capital espionage case against Yee, who studied Islam and Arabic in Damascus in the mid-1990s.

There are about 20 private Islamic institutes in Syria operating under the supervision of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor. Every year, they receive some 3,000 foreign students from the United States, Japan, Britain, Indonesia and Arab countries.



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