DUBAI, June 08, 2017 (Reuters): Qatar dismissed allegations of support for Islamist militancy on Friday after four Arab states, which cut ties with Qatar earlier this week, put the emirate on a “terror finance watch list”.
“The recent joint statement issued by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE regarding a ‘terror finance watch list’ once again reinforces baseless allegations that hold no foundation in fact,” a Qatari government statement said.
“Our position on countering terrorism is stronger than many of the signatories of the joint statement – a fact that has been conveniently ignored by the authors.”
(Reporting by William Maclean; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
Qatar Foundation International provides support to initiatives that either create or encourage the growth of Arabic Programmes
Other Arab nation’s benefactors have made donations in the past to American higher education
Schools which received the donations praised the support they got from the foundation
Washington, D.C., August 27, 2017: There are some public schools in the US which offer the students an opportunity to learn Arabic language in their schools- such schools have been receiving funding from Qatar Foundation International, the US arm of the foundation. It’s problematic as Qatar allegedly supports the terrorist organization Muslim Brotherhood.
Qatar and its alleged ties to terrorism
Qatar has recently been in news for its alleged ties to terrorism for which it had to face some serious diplomatic standoff. Over a period of 8 years, Qatar Foundation International gave money amounting to $30.6 million to more than 12 schools from schools in New York to those in Oregon. They are also providing their support to initiatives that either create or encourage the growth of Arabic Programmes like paying for teacher’s salaries, training, and educational material as well.
Qatar Foundation’s plan of expansion
According to The Wall Street Journal report, Omran Hamad Al-Kuwari, Executive Director of the Qatar Foundation’s CEO office said “We are going to definitely look at ways to expand in the future. We’ve been quite surprised about the interest.”
Other Arab nation’s benefactors have donated in the past
Other Arab nation’s benefactors have made donations in the past to American higher education but Qatar Foundation International is amongst the few organizations whose target group for grants is K-12 (schools which have classes from kindergarten to 1st -12th class) public schools. The foundation seeing the increasing interest of American students in learning Arabic wants to increase the amount they are spending.
Though the foundations have donated a large sum of money, still it’s lower than the donations from the American supporters of K-12 education like Walton Family Foundation which donated $190.9 million the previous year.
Arabic is the 2nd most spoken language by American students
Schools which received the donations praised the support they got from the foundation. According to a review of data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), “After Spanish, Arabic is the language most spoken by students learning English as a second language at U.S. public schools, and the percentage of speakers is growing at a faster rate than other top languages.”
But there are some people who are speaking about the foundation’s ties to Qatar. They said, “Its co-founder and chairwoman, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, is the mother of Qatar’s emir, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.”
Qatar denied Arab countries allegations of its ties to terrorism
Qatar said that on 24 August that it is sending the country’s ambassador back to Iran to intensify diplomatic relations with its Arab neighbors. The Arabic countries demanded Qatar that it reduces its ties with Tehran, claimed that the country has aided extremists and also gave shelter to Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. But, Qatar has denied the allegations made by the Arab countries.
Donald Trump criticized Qatar publicly
In June 2017, American President Donald Trump supported the stand taken by Arabian countries and criticized Qatar publicly, The US has had prolonged difficulties with Doha. The US has a military command at the base in Qatar. Washington has often accused Qatar that it fails to figure out where the financing of militant groups comes from. This criticism is also directed at other countries also, including Saudi Arabia.
There are some parents and community members in cities like Portland, Ore, and Houston who have raised their voice about Arabic Programmes which are being supported by the Foundation (and its ties to Qatar). However, the biggest protest has come from activists, groups, and bloggers with orthodox views.
Protest from a Houston activist
Sam Herrera, 2 years ago coordinated a protest in Houston on the opening of a public Arabic immersion school which allegedly received funding from the foundation. He is an activist from Houston who works against illegal immigration.
“They’re not going to overtly come out and tell you what they’re doing,” said Sam Herrera. He thinks that the foundation’s ties to Qatar, the country which allegedly supports the terrorist organization Muslim Brotherhood. However, he could not point to any evidence of such activities going on within the school. He couldn’t prove it.
When asked to comment on comment on the Qatar Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education didn’t say anything.
Al-Kuwari, Executive Director of Qatar Foundation denied the allegations
Mr. Al-Kuwari denied concerns relating to the foundation being tied to extremist groups. He said “There’s a lot of PR wars going on. Everybody that comes to Qatar knows what we are about.”
The foundation has not disclosed the sources from which it receives funding. Its aim is to serve the Qatar population in community development, science, education, and research. Doha, capital of Qatar has many K-12 schools, universities, also having foreign campuses of 6 American colleges.
Mr. Al-Kuwari said that the foundation’s U.S. wing is created as “a way of giving back” for U.S. satellite universities which help to develop Qatari society and people.
Parents at the Houston immersion school said: school is totally secular
Some of the parents at the Houston immersion school answer back to critics’ allegations. Kinan Romman, who has a child at the school said, “The school is totally secular. It’s a state-funded school. It gives kids an amazing competitive advantage in the business world, and it breaks down cultural barriers,” mentions The Wall Street Journal report.
Are the Arab countries Foundations using the donation to spread Islamic extremism?
It is not the first time that foreign involvement in U.S. public schools has drawn concern. Foreign donations are a common occurrence at the university level and benefactors belonging to Arab countries like Saudi Arabia have faced allegations like these. They are being accused of spreading Islamic extremism through a medium of donation.
Last year, in Texas, the state education agency undertook an investigation into the Turkish government’s allegation that a charter school operator was part of a huge ‘multimillion-dollar plan to fund causes for an exiled Muslim cleric’. But the agency was not able to find any wrongdoing.
History of donation by Qatar Foundation International
In the school year, 2009-10 Qatar Foundation International made its first contribution which was of $625,000 in support of U.S. public schools. In the school year, 2017-18 the organization gave $3.8 million whereas in the previous year it gave $3.2 million. In the school year, 2014-15 it gave $5.5 million.
The foundation usually looks for schools to apply for grants, though schools sometimes also look for such foundations. In 2013, the Tucson Unified School District got a $465,000, multi-year grant to cover materials, cultural events and teacher salaries, for 2 schools, as well as various other grants, the total of it was $175,243, and they received the grant so as to expand its Arabic program.
In Portland, Oregon, the public-school system received around $375,000 for over 5 years, it started in 2010, and in 2017 it received $75,000 grant, which will help to pay for Arabic programs at 2 schools. The foundation was also responsible for funding a trip for some students and staff to travel to Doha.
Schools which received donations praised the foundation
The Principal (of one of the participating schools) Lincoln High School, Peyton Chapman said: “It’s one of the most supportive partnerships that I’ve ever experienced in 20 years of public education.”
Amongst the first schools that signed on with the Qatar Foundation in the year 2009 was The Washington Latin Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. Martha Cutts, the retired headmaster said, “I readily accepted the foundation’s offer to fund an Arabic program at the school.” According to the foundation, since 2009, Washington Latin has received around $1.04 million from them. Ms. Cutts said “The program has grown every year. I think it allows for our students to be better-informed citizens.” She said that the foundation officials are actively involved in the school; they provide professional development and also visit classrooms.
Through the program students learn about the Arabic language, their culture, take cultural trips which include visiting the Qatari embassy in D.C.
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August 04, 2017: As Islamic State militants continue to lose territory in their declared caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, officials and analysts are expressing concern that al-Qaida is making efforts to turn those losses into gains by itself.
Al-Qaida had been largely eclipsed by IS in recent years, with IS militants grabbing headlines by seizing territory in Iraq and Syria and carrying out attacks in the West. But there are signs that al-Qaida may be reemerging as a regional power.
“Al-Qaida in Syria is using opportunities to seize additional safe havens, to integrate itself into parts of the local population, parts of other forces, and bumping into other forces as well,” said Joshua Geltzer, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the U.S National Security Council.
Tahrir al-Sham, an offshoot al-Qaida group originally known as the al-Nusra Front, has recently emerged as the most powerful Sunni insurgent faction in Syria after consolidating its control over most of the northwestern province of Idlib.
“Idlib now is a huge problem. It is an al-Qaida safe haven right on the border of Turkey,” Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the U.S.-led global coalition to counter IS, said at the Middle East Institute in Washington on Thursday.
McGurk blamed the flow of weapons and foreign fighters into Syria for al-Qaida’s gradual strengthening in Syria.
Measures under way
McGurk added that the U.S.-led coalition intended to work with Turkey to seal the northern Syrian border to prevent more recruits from joining al-Qaida affiliates in the region.
Hailing the progress of the Iraqi forces and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, McGurk said the coalition’s priority was defeating IS. But now that priority also includes ensuring that foreign fighters do not leave the region to cause trouble elsewhere.
“We do not want any foreign fighters getting out of Iraq and Syria,” he said during a panel discussion at the Middle East Institute on the Trump administration’s counterterrorism policy.
Experts warn that as IS-controlled territory shrinks, the terror group’s foreign fighters will inevitably be drawn to al-Qaida.
“You may see on a local level al-Qaida affiliates being opportunistic and pulling in ISIS units who kind of feel lost,” Charles Lister, a Syria analyst at the Middle East Institute said, using another acronym for IS. “They [IS militants] don’t have the same kind of grandeur, they don’t have the same powerful leadership, and they don’t have the same powerful brand that they had before.”
Led by Jordanian jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, IS was founded as an offshoot of al-Qaida in Iraq in 2004. But as IS gained influence in Iraq and Syria in 2014, the terror group split from al-Qaida, and the two groups engaged in acrimonious and at times bloody competition over the leadership of the jihadist cause. For years, IS has been siphoning off followers of al-Qaida. That trend seems to have begun to reverse.
Iraq’s Vice President Ayad Allawi told Reuters in April that he had information from Iraqi and regional contacts that “the discussion has started now” concerning a “possible alliance” between the two terror groups.
Referring to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Allawi said, “There are discussions and dialogues between messengers representing Baghdadi and representing Zawahiri.”
While some analysts raise concerns about the possibility of IS and al-Qaida joining hands, others like Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute downplay it, arguing that an ultimate rapprochement between the two groups is unlikely, given the history of animosity and their fundamental differences on “global jihad.”
Lister, however, highlighted that al-Qaida could take an opportunistic approach to draw IS members into its ranks as the terror group faces defeats on several fronts in Iraq and Syria.
Lister said Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama bin Laden, who has recently appeared as a new face of al-Qaida leadership, has been trying to ease tensions with IS in an effort to encourage the merger of IS fighters into al-Qaida.
“Hamza has very purposely, I think, not spoken out against ISIS in all of his recent statements,” Lister said.
Al-Qaida in a blind spot
Experts warn that as the U.S-led coalition is cracking down on IS-controlled territory in Iraq and Syria, it should not allow al-Qaida to move to other areas and operate at ease. They say the group is trying to gain the sympathy of the local Syrian population by showing itself as a moderate alternative to Islamic State.
“We continue to underestimate al-Qaida,” said Jennifer Cafarella, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank. “While al-Qaida in Syria is currently not actively attacking abroad, they have built an army. It has consolidated control in Idlib, and is preparing to do the same underneath the U.S.-Russian cease-fire deal in Daraa to expand that model of first destroying the moderate opposition and then begin installation of al-Qaida governance to transform population over time.”
She said the strategy of the U.S.-led coalition after removing IS from Iraq and Syria needs to shift to the reconstruction of infrastructure destroyed because of war, and that should be coupled with addressing the grievances of Sunni residents who feel marginalized by Iran-backed Shi’ite militias.
“This is a very long war and we haven’t won it yet. These tactical successes are important but can be temporary if we do not set adequate conditions, which is much more than a military requirement,” Cafarella said. (VOA)
Flights attendants are often sharing stories and complaining about passengers from India
The problem is not just their behavior, but what they carry for travel as well
A couple of studies reveal exactly why Indian passengers drive the flight attendants crazy
July 07, 2017: Flight attendants are often sharing funny and weird stories about Indian passengers on board to an international flight. They often complain about Indians being ‘different passengers’ that others.
A middle aged man once peed on the aisle as he got drunk out of his mind. Another time, on a flight from Melbourne to Delhi, a man got drunk and assaulted two passengers as a result of which he had to be tied down to his seat.
And surveys and study has revealed it is not only what Indians do on board, but also what they carry along with their travel. Recent study and survey show exactly what is wrong.
Virgin Atlantic, a UK based airline, studied the most bizarre check in requests from all over the world. It reveals about the Indians’ requests to carry beddings and broom on their travel. Bed-heads, folding beds and brooms are often requested by Indians on their travel to the UK.
Another study about the 2016 crash-landing of Emirates flight (consisting 80% Indians on board) and more broadly about passenger behavior carried out by UAE aviation authorities highlight that Indians do not follow instructions, even at the times of crisis. For example, Indians carry their handbags during evacuation after repeated requests by the crew not to do so.
Not putting phones on airplane mode, stealing in-flight headphones and blankets, not making way for fellow passengers and of course taking too many selfies are some of the other things listen out by UAE authorities.