Florida threatens to revoke Muslim school’s vouchers over imam’s remarks

Florida education officials have told a private Muslim school in Northeast Miami-Dade to turn over a roster of all its owners, operators and employees or risk losing its taxpayer-funded vouchers after a prayer leader at the mosque where the school is located made inflammatory comments about Jewish people.

The Florida Department of Education on Thursday told Reviver Academy that it has a week to explain its relationship with Fadi Kablawi, an imam at the Golden Glades mosque who in a religious ceremony last month referred to Israeli soldiers as “worse than the Nazis.” His remarks, some of which were made in Arabic, were posted online by the Middle East Media Research Institute, whose translation included Kablawi characterizing Jews as “apes and pigs” and praying to “annihilate” them.

Read more: Lawmakers call on state to reprimand Muslim prayer leader for anti-Jewish comments

“In Florida, we will not tolerate calls for genocide,” Cathy Russell, the deputy executive director of the office that oversees the state’s school choice program, wrote in a letter to the school.

“This is especially true where they are made in the presence of students,” Russell added, demanding that the school explain whether students were present when Kablawi made his comments, and whether Kablawi has contact with their kids.

School officials did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Kablawi told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that he intends to get attorneys involved should the state take any action against him.

The state also wants the school to provide a list of all of its employees, including teachers and school personnel, and the names of those with leadership roles at the mosque that owns and operates the academy. If the school does not provide the information, it could lose its eligibility for vouchers, Russell wrote.

The state sent its letter a day after a bipartisan group of Jewish lawmakers encouraged state agencies to take action against Kablawi, including stripping him of his dental license. Republican State Rep. Randy Fine, who shared the state’s letter online Thursday night, had asked the state to investigate Reviver Academy, saying they received $500,000 in taxpayer-funded vouchers that currently benefit 74 students.

In Florida, families are legally allowed to use taxpayer-funded vouchers to pay tuition at the school of their choice. That includes private religious schools, such as Reviver Academy.

Miami Herald staff writer Alyssa Johnson contributed to this report.