Are American universities funding extremists' education?

Several U.S. universities operate branch campuses in Qatar.
Several U.S. universities operate branch campuses in Qatar.

As a handful of American universities and colleges continue to operate branches in Qatar, some are now asking if American institutions are educating extremists.

Doha is home to Education City, a massive academic compound funded by the Qatar Foundation to bring top-notch American degree programs to the Middle East. Universities involved in the program include Georgetown, Cornell, Northwestern, Virginia Commonwealth and Texas A&M (TAMU).

The Qatar Foundation, whose mission is to further education, science and research and community involvement, is a private enterprise funded by some of the wealthiest people in the country. Qatar’s wealthiest also have strong ties to violent extremism.

Many links have been drawn between ISIS and Qatar. An investigation by NBC News cited Qataris as the largest financial backers of ISIS, likening the wealthy, private donors to angel investors in the tech business.

Research gathered by NBC News suggests the “biggest share of the individual donations supporting ISIS and the most radical groups comes from Qatar.”

Justin Pulliam, a Texas A&M graduate and former chair of the university’s Aggie Conservatives group, has called for the immediate closing of the TAMU branch in Qatar. Among a myriad of worries, Pulliam is concerned his university is educating radical extremists.

“It’s very concerning that public resources are potentially assisting those who want to attack America, destroy Western values and terrorize others,” Pulliam told Gulf News Journal exclusively. “One must wonder: Is Texas A&M funding, educating and empowering terrorists and terrorist supporters?”

Though it’s true the Qatar-based institutions teach American students, the goal is to educate Qataris. In a contract between Texas A&M and the Qatar Foundation, the university promised to work toward a 70 percent Qatari enrollment.

Controversy surrounds the mosque at Education City, as well. Politico dug into the mosque’s messages and the sheiks who deliver them in November 2015 when first lady Michelle Obama announced she would be visiting the compound as part of her “Let Girls Learn” campaign.

Sheik Tariq al-Hawwas gave a sermon at Education City just days before the first lady’s visit. According to Politico, al-Hawwas is no stranger to hate-charged, anti-Semitic messages. “If only Hitler had finished them off, thus relieving humanity of them,” he is quoted as saying in 2013. 

“The hateful and violent rhetoric from the Education City mosque highlights the danger this arrangement poses to the West and non-Muslims,” Pulliam said.

The Obama administration has turned a blind eye to Qatar’s passivity in funding extremists, according to William Palumbo of Stop Qatar Now.

“Despite Qatar's known funding of terrorist organizations across the Middle East, the Obama administration has done nothing to stem Qatari state investment in the United States,” Palumbo told Gulf News Journal. “Indeed, as bad as Qatar's record on terrorism is, the administration is in the process of opening up the largest sponsor of terrorism, Iran, for investment.”

On this moral and ethical test, Pulliam said his university, and others involved, are failing.

“The state of Qatar’s, Qatar Foundation’s and Education City’s links to terrorism and radical Islam are unacceptable and should be condemned, not ignored,” Pulliam said. “The university’s record of appeasement makes me question the judgment of the Texas A&M president, chancellor and regents; Texas A&M’s Qatar campus should be closed immediately.”

Organizations in this Story

Qatar Foundation

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