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Qatari Foundation Funds Arabic Courses in U.S. Public Schools

September 26, 2017

A foundation from Qatar has spent millions of dollars funding Arabic courses in U.S. public schools in recent years, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The Qatar Foundation gave $30.6 million over the past eight years to several dozen schools from New York to Oregon and supporting initiatives to create or encourage the growth of Arabic programs, including paying for teacher training, materials, and salaries,” the newspaper reported in August. “The funding came through Qatar Foundation International, the foundation’s U.S. arm.”

Children electing to take the classes learn the Arabic language and study Arab culture.

The story reported parents have expressed concern over the foundation’s ties to Qatar, a country embroiled in Middle Eastern disputes and diplomatic uncertainties with the United States.

‘Risk of Operational Intrusion’

April Few, communications director for U.S. Parents Involved in Education, says accepting money from faraway sources puts schools in danger of undue influence.

“Those with the gold set the rules,” Few said. “Accepting money from China, Qatar, or the federal government all run risk of operational intrusion from that source. Local control excludes national mandates, and certainly international, and in this case a nation with ties to terrorism and/or communism.”

Mixed Bag

Shane Vander Hart, editor of CaffeinatedThoughts.com, says the funding from Qatar could be beneficial, though schools should be careful to ensure students aren’t receiving propaganda. 

“On one hand, money to teach students Arabic in public schools could be beneficial to the intelligence community, law enforcement, and organizations who work with Muslims down the road who probably do not have enough Arabic speakers and translators,” Vander Hart said. “Without grants such as these, it is unlikely that schools will offer it as a foreign language. On the other hand, I’m skeptical of Arabic Immersion Schools—are there any examples of immersion schools for other languages?—as a potential gateway for Muslim indoctrination.”

‘Strings Attached?’

Vander Hart says districts should get all the answers before accepting such funding.

“Does this money come with strings attached beyond teaching Arabic?” Vander Hart said. “Do schools have control over who is hired and what curriculum is used? How realistic is it for Arabic to be taught without use of the Quran? What is Qatar’s motivation? These are questions that I have, looking at this money. With the increasing risk of homegrown terrorism by ISIS, it is vital that recipient school districts do their due diligence to answer these questions for concerned parents.”

Michael McGrady (mmcgrady@uccs.edu) writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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Michael McGrady writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.
mmcgrady@uccs.edu