Activists say money trumps all else for US campuses in Qatar

Activists opposed to United States universities operating campuses in Qatar say there is little chance of them pulling out because of the “incredible money-making” opportunity it presents.

“The reason I got involved is because I am concerned at the links between Qatar and the financing of various terrorist elements, within Syria and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who was involved in the 9/11 attacks," William Palumbo, a founder of the Qatar Awareness Campaign, said.

His group is focused on the country's possible ties to terrorism, genocide and organized crime.

“Though Qatar is quite small, there are two enormous American military bases in the country, and most of the GDP comes from the natural gas fields run by Exxon Mobil,” Palumbo told the Gulf News Journal. “And then there are the universities.”

He said he worries because several US and British universities are completely funded by the Qatar National Research Fund.
In 2016, a Washington Post investigation found that the foundation that administers the research fund paid more than $400 million a year to finance the operations of six American universities.

Using tax records, Department of Education data and other public records, the Post reported that in 2014, Weill Cornell Medical College got $121.7 million, Texas A&M University received $76.2 million, Carnegie Mellon got $60.3 million, Georgetown received  $59.5 million, Northwestern got $45.3 million, and Virginia Commonwealth University received $41.8 million.

“This is a Sharia-compliant government, and if you ask me it would not be my preference to live under that,” Palumbo said. “But it is an Islamic country, and as long as they are not exporting terror, that is fine. But the problem is that they do.”

Palumbo said any university receiving money becomes obligated in some way to its backers.

“People taking this money are not going to necessarily present courses that will offend those people giving money,” he said.

Palumbo also described the link between Sheikh Mohammad and Qatar as dating to 1996, when Mohammad was living there. Reportedly, he was tipped off by a member of the country’s royal family ahead of his arrest by the FBI, and fled the country.

Palumbo also asserts that intelligence officials have suggested a link between ISIS and Qatar, with claims that money was funneled to the organization from within the country.

Despite these red flags, however, American universities will be reluctant to leave, he says.

“It has turned into an incredible money-making opportunity, and they have no strength to say 'no,' ” Palumbo said.