Consortium Against Terrorist Finance Apr. 6, 2017, 1:58pm

The Doha satellite campus of the world-renowned Georgetown University made headlines for all the wrong reasons last week after hosting an individual convicted of working with a Middle Eastern terrorist group. Kuwaiti-born Palestinian Sami Al-Arian, a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist group’s board and a quiet proponent of terrorist activities, was hosted at Georgetown’s Doha campus by the university’s Middle Eastern Studies Student Association (MESSA) for a public lecture on March 28th.

Much more important than the content of the event, entitled “Youth in the Middle East,” is the fact that a prestigious research institution would welcome an individual with a record of being committed to violent extremism onto its campus. While the government of Qatar often plays host to Islamists from around the region, the invitation of Al-Arian, who allegedly maintains close ties to Georgetown University, represents a lack of adherence to moral standards in the Gulf country’s universities.  

According to a press release in the run-up to the event, Georgetown cited Dr. Sami Al-Arian as a “civil rights activist” who visited the Doha campus to help students make the world “a better, and a more equitable, and peaceful” place. The press release claimed that “Al-Arian is a prominent Palestinian human rights advocate and community leader” who supposedly discussed the challenges facing young people in the Middle East during the Georgetown event.

Unsurprisingly, Georgetown’s announcement failed to mention that Al-Arian was also a documented member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Majlis Shura, the terrorist group’s powerful advisory council, or that he pled guilty “to conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds, goods, or services to or for the benefit of PIJ.” Georgetown University in Qatar’s statement also left out that their guest allegedly solicited money from a Kuwaiti lawmaker after a 1995 double suicide bombing that killed 19 Israelis, asking him “to extend true support of the jihad effort in Palestine so that operations such as these can continue.”

Al-Arian’s covert activities in assisting PIJ came to light when he was confronted about his 1988 “death to Israel” shouts at a Cleveland fundraiser where he was introduced as the head of the Islamic Committee for Palestine, “the active arm of the Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine.” In attempting to justify his words at the fundraiser, Al-Arian asserted that the Muslim world believed President Bush was “going to carry a cross and go invade the Muslim world and turn them into Christians.”

While Georgetown’s hosting of Al-Arian drew notable criticism, including from renowned counterterrorism and intelligence expert Matthew Levitt, the event proceeded as planned. Recent reports have unraveled Al-Arian’s ties to Georgetown through his son Abdullah Al-Arian, an assistant professor at the Qatar campus, and son-in-law Jonathan Brown, the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization, a position created following a $20 million donation to the university from Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal. Al-Arian’s ties to Georgetown University, specifically to its Qatar campus, may have been instrumental in the decision to welcome him on to the campus.

Attempts, especially from prominent research institutions, to whitewash the records of those tied to terrorist organizations must not be overlooked. As Qatar looks to emerge as a global hub of business and tourism, most notably with the upcoming World Cup, the international community must demand that its government and universities, both Qatari and satellite, match international norms of refusing to host those tied to terrorist groups, such as Sami Al-Arian.

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