Georgetown University and Radical Islamists: A Family Affair
Georgetown University’s Qatar campus recently hosted Sami Al-Arian for a lecture in Doha. According to a news release from the school’s Middle Eastern Studies Student Association, Al-Arian is a “civil rights activist” who challenges students to make the world “a better, and more equitable and peaceful [place].”
Those are charitable descriptions of Al-Arian, a documented member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Majlis Shura, or board of directors. According to Islamic Jihad’s bylaws, which law enforcement agents found during searches of Al-Arian’s home and offices, there can be “no peace without Islam.” The group’s objective is to create “a state of terror, instability and panic in the souls of Zionists and especially the groups of settlers, and force them to leave their houses.”
It’s an agenda that Al-Arian has taken to heart.
Following a double suicide bombing in 1995 that killed 19 Israelis, Al-Arian solicited money from a Kuwaiti legislator. “The latest operation, carried out by the two mujahideen who were martyred for the sake of God, is the best guide and witness to what the believing few can do in the face of Arab and Islamic collapse at the heels of the Zionist enemy,” he wrote.
“I call upon you to try to extend true support of the jihad effort in Palestine so that operations such as these can continue, so that the people do not lose faith in Islam and its representatives,” he added. Four years earlier, he spoke at a fundraiser in Cleveland, and was introduced as the head of the “active arm of the Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine.”
Why, then, is a Jesuit university, albeit at a campus in Qatar, hosting a leader of a designated terrorist group’s “active arm”?
What’s more, there’s a family bond between Georgetown University and the Al-Arians.
His son, Abdullah, is an assistant professor at Georgetown’s Qatar campus, teaching history at its School of Foreign Service. He earned his Ph.D. at Georgetown, and wrote his dissertation about the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood during the 1970s, a time during which his father acknowledges being part of the global Islamist movement.
Jonathan Brown, Al-Arian’s son-in-law, also works at Georgetown, as the [Saudi] Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization. Brown recently drew criticism for a lecture in which he argued that slavery isn’t inherently “morally evil” if the slave is treated well. He also minimized sexual consent as a recent social more, arguing that no one is really free enough to grant consent anyway.
Property records show that Brown and his wife, Laila Al-Arian, bought a modest house just outside Tampa in 2015. Brown also owns a $1.1 million house in Mclean, Virginia.
Brown’s boss, Georgetown University Professor John Esposito, has been a staunch Al-Arian defender. Al-Arian is “an extraordinarily bright, articulate scholar and intellectual-activist, a man of conscience with a strong commitment to peace and social justice,” Esposito wrote in a letter to a Federal judge.
Brown’s slavery and sexual consent lecture was hosted by the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in Herndon, Virginia. The IIIT was a prime financial supporter of a think tank that Al-Arian founded in Tampa called the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE). WISE provided cover for at least three other members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Shura Council, including his brother-in-law Mazen Al-Najjar, an academic named Basheer Nafi and Ramadan Abdullah Shallah — Islamic Jihad’s secretary general since late 1995.
Federal prosecutors wanted Al-Arian to tell a grand jury what he knew about the IIIT’s financial support for terrorists. He refused. Al-Arian was later charged with criminal contempt for refusing to testify, even though a judge granted him criminal immunity.
The case never went to trial, and Al-Arian was deported to Turkey in 2015, pursuant to terms in his 2006 guilty plea for his involvement with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He now works as “director of the Center for Regional Politics at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University,” according to the Georgetown Middle East students group’s press release.
Al-Arian is actually a computer scientist.
The government of Qatar has supported Hamas — the Islamic Jihad’s rival Palestinian terrorist group — and has provided money and refuge to Hamas leaders. In that light, Al-Arian’s invitation doesn’t seem out of place. But this was still an event hosted by a Georgetown University campus, moderated by one of its prominent faculty members.
While Al-Arian has tried to deny his Islamic Jihad activities, or at least minimize them, his work to advance the group’s bloody ambitions is undeniable. He has self-identified as the Shura Council’s secretary. And in his plea agreement, he admitted to lying about Shallah’s prominent role in the Islamic Jihad.
During his 1991 remarks in Cleveland after the “active arm” introduction, Al-Arian also urged donations for jihad. “Your brothers in Palestine are struggling with their beings,” he said, “so let us struggle here with our money.”
“This is the way of giving,” he said. “This is the way of struggle. This is the way of battle. This is the way of jihad. This is the way of martyrdom. This is the way of blood, because this is the path to heaven.”
The student association’s news release failed to mention Al-Arian’s background as a convicted felon, or his guilty plea, and it whitewashed his resulting deportation to Turkey by saying that “Al-Arian relocated.”
The federal judge who saw all the evidence against Al-Arian, and who watched him lie about his true identity and violent ambitions, called him a “master manipulator.” Old habits die hard, apparently. The question in this case is whether Georgetown and its student groups are being duped, or are witting accomplices in whitewashing a terrorist into a “human rights advocate.”