Beware of Qatari horses bearing gifts

With its seemingly infinite wealth, the Sunni Arab nation has become the chief patron of radical Islamists throughout the world, as it simultaneously has become the most astute influence operator in Washington and throughout Western capitals.

Qatari flag. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Qatari flag. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern is the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a think tank that specializes in the Middle East. She is the author of Saudi Arabia and the Global Terrorist Network (2011).  

While most people of good will celebrate the warming of relations between Israel and the Sunni Muslim nations of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, one tiny, gas-rich, Sunni nation should have all of us in the West concerned: Qatar.

Last month, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arabian Gulf Affairs, Timothy Lenderking, stated, “We are going to go ahead with designating Qatar a major non-NATO ally.”

Being a “major non-NATO” ally means the United States provides a foreign partner certain benefits in the areas of defense, trade and security cooperation. It does not entail any foreign security commitments to that nation.

This also came with the announcement that there will be a $26 billion increase in U.S.-Qatari military cooperation, including “Foreign Military Sales” of that same amount, to help build up the Qatar Armed Forces. Qatar is also interested in purchasing our highly refined F-35s, the most sophisticated stealth fighter aircraft America has produced.

Also announced last month was that Qatar will be collaborating with NASA, the Smithsonian and the Fulbright Foundation.

This was followed shortly afterward by a groundbreaking Oct. 20 report by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about the huge amount of foreign funding that has been lavished on our nation’s universities. The Department of Education (DoE) uncovered the fact that the universities had not reported approximately $6.5 billion to the DoE. This is in direct violation of Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

The report states that Qatar has given approximately $1.2 billion to American universities, and that is only based on what has been reported by the educational institutions. However, according to DoE officials, less than 3 percent of foreign gifts to universities have gone reported. According to Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum, Qatar is now the “largest foreign donor to American universities.”

They have also showered approximately $30 million to American public schools to teach kindergarteners through 12th-graders courses including Arabic and courses about the Arab world. This all seems quite lovely until one probes a bit deeper.

It leaves one wondering: Why this sudden interest in the education of American students?

Qatar, home to the Muslim Brotherhood, has been funding extreme Sunni terrorists. Even though its population is predominantly Sunni, they have developed an increasingly close relationship with Iran.

Qatar seems to be an equal-opportunity philanthropist.

They also fund Al Jazeera, which is an entirely different operation in the West than its Arabic-counterpart. According to Hussein Aboubakr Mansour, director of EMET’s Program for Emerging Democratic Voices within the Middle East, Al Jazeera in Arabic beamed throughout the Middle East is extremely different from what one views in English. “Al Jazeera in Arabic is highly anti-Semitic, anti-American, anti-Israeli, homophobic, etc. Al Jazeera Arabic instructs people in hatred towards America, Israel and Jews, and in what is the correct Koranic way to beat their wives.”

In contrast, their Western social-media platform, AJ+, pushes for the left-wing radicalization of American politics and actually endorses gay rights in order to cleverly merge the social activism of the extreme left with the very conservative sort of Salafist Islam.

The Qatari Foundation International is most proud of what it calls “Education City” in Doha, home to nine “international universities” including Northwestern, which has a special internship program with Al Jazeera; Georgetown; Carnegie Mellon; Texas A&M; Virginia Commonwealth; and the Weil Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences.

Their website boasts of their “large diversity”; however, their education might also include walking across the street and being radicalized by a Salafist imam.

The Qatar Foundation International, according to Sam Westrop of the Middle East Forum is, “the soft power arm of the Qatari regime.” On paper, they describe themselves as dedicated to connecting cultures and advancing global citizenship through education; the current mission statement says that “we engage a global community of diverse learners and educators, fostering global competency and 21st-century skills through the exploration of the Arabic language and the Arab world’s societies and cultures.”

But more than a simple educational foundation, QFI is a key instrument of Qatari state policy. The CEO and nominal founder of QFI is Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani, related to the current Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and daughter of the former emir.

According to Westrop, the Qatar Foundation in Washington, D.C., has a U.S. arm that has gone into American public kindergarten through 12th-grade schools. The Middle East Forum has taken a look at the curricula for these K through 12 programs and found that “they are not encouraging kids to run off and join a terrorist group. It appears to be a benign thing. They are just teaching Arabic. However, along with that is a pernicious agenda. They are trying to radicalize you. They are trying to radicalize your children. There are far-left curricula, but there is also a pro-Islamist curricular, a curricular that demonizes Israel, that attacks Jews, attacking gays, attacking various minorities. This is a dangerous ideology with a dangerous curriculum. But this curriculum is charaded in this ‘feel good, we are making the world a better place’ packaging. Let’s teach our children Arabic. But along with this, is a great deal of an emphasis on how to radicalize your children.”

Adds Westrop: “Qatar funds Salafis and the Muslim brotherhood. However, within America, you find the Qatari funded Muslim Brotherhood has linked arms with those who promote very left-wing agendas, such as prison reform and gay rights. The American Muslim Brotherhoods cannot be looked upon as merely representing Salafism. This is in an attempt to market themselves. Yet they are funding the agendas that the Islamists want. We see Qatar funding groups like Western Muslim charities, such as CAIR and ISNA and Islamic Relief, with Islamist ties abroad to places like Hamas in Gaza.”

This chameleon-like ability is all an effort towards Dawa—inviting someone to embrace Islam—part of the Islamist agenda to proselytize and to dress Islamism up in palatable terms for the audience they are speaking to. In many cases in the United States, it is for progressive Western ears, all the while funding the most conservative Islamist mosques and terrorist groups.

Qatar, with its seemingly infinite wealth, has become the chief patron of radical Islamists throughout the world, as it simultaneously has become the most astute influence operator in Washington and throughout Western capitals.

It is high time that we developed the moral clarity to be able to distinguish between friend and foe. The recently coined term “frenemy” is symptomatic of our moral relativism and of our moral ambiguity.

It is also deeply troubling that the United States would consider selling our highly sophisticated F-35s to such a duplicitous foreign-policy player as Qatar. These fighter jets and the ability to “reverse engineer them” can easily end up in the hands of America’s real strategic foes, such as Iran, China, Russia or Turkey, which, by that same token, has fallen into the foe category.

In the United States, we have become accustomed to immediate gratification. We think tactically and episodically—from news headline to news headline, or at most, from election to election. Meanwhile, our enemies think strategically and take a long-term view.

What is even more deeply troubling, however, is how our universities and our grade schools have allowed the most precious commodity that we can possibly have—the minds and values of America’s children to be on sale to the highest bidder.

Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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