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US Public Schools are Teaching Arabic Language and Receiving Aid from Qatar Foundation International, But Why?
- 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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