Long known for its ties to Saudi royals – who helped foot the bill for its Islamic studies program – Georgetown University is also strongly tied to radical elements in Qatar who call for killing Jews.
In fact, it has a satellite campus in Doha, Qatar, and is hosting a lecture Tuesday evening by a convicted felon and known member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a designated foreign terrorist organization.
According to a news release from the school's Middle Eastern Studies Student Association, former South Florida University professor Sami Al-Arian is a "prominent Palestinian civil rights advocate and community leader" who will speak on the topic of "Youth in the Middle East."
The fact that Al-Arian pleaded guilty to a felony and was deported to Turkey is never mentioned.
"I'll be talking about the challenges facing the youth today, particularly in the Middle East, and how they should prepare to face them," Al-Arian says in the release. "I hope that the audience will have a better understanding of the major problems facing our world today, and what kind of education and knowledge, as well as tools and skills, they should have to make it a better, and a more equitable and peaceful world."
Missing from the release is anything about the dark side of Al-Arian's resume, says a report by the Investigative Project on Terrorism:
- Al-Arian is a documented member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's Majlis Shura, or board of directors and a convicted felon.
- According to the Islamic Jihad's bylaws, there can be "No Peace without Islam."
- Islamic Jihad's stated goal 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."
- Following a double suicide bombing in 1995 that killed 19 Israelis, IPT reports that Al-Arian solicited money from a Kuwaiti legislator with the following words:
"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. ... 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."
- Four years earlier, he spoke at a fundraiser in Cleveland, introduced as the head of the "active arm of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine."
During his 1991 remarks in Cleveland, Al-Arian 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 earlier. "This is the way of struggle. This is the way of battle. This is the way of jihad. This is the way of martyrdom. Thus is the way of blood, because this is the path to heaven."
Why Georgetown University?
Why, then, asks IPT, is a Jesuit university hosting a leader of a designated terrorist group's "active arm"?
There's a reason, notes IPT, citing family ties between Georgetown and the Al-Arians.
His son, Abdullah, is an assistant professor at Georgetown's Qatar campus, teaching history in its School of Foreign Service. He earned his Ph.D. at Georgetown, writing his dissertation about the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood during the 1970s, a time his father acknowledges being part of the global Islamist movement.
IPT documents that Jonathan Brown, Al-Arian's son-in-law, also works at Georgetown, as chairman of the [Saudi] Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Civilization program.
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 no one is really free enough to grant consent anyway.
Brown's boss, Georgetown University professor John Esposito, in a July 2008 letter to a federal judge, called Al-Arian "an extraordinarily bright, articulate scholar and intellectual-activist, a man of conscience with a strong commitment to peace and social justice."
Brown's slavery and sexual consent lecture was hosted by the International Institute of Islamic Thought, or IIIT, in Herndon, Virginia. The IIIT was a prime financial supporter of a think tank Al-Arian founded in Tampa called the World and Islam Studies Enterprise. It 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 – the 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 charged with criminal contempt after maintaining that stance even after a judge granted him immunity for his truthful testimony.
The case never went to trial. Al-Arian was deported to Turkey in 2015, pursuant to terms in his 2006 guilty plea connected to his Palestinian Islamic Jihad support. He now works as director of the Center for Regional Politics at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University, the Georgetown Middle East students group's news release said.
The student association's news release fails to mention Al-Arian's guilty plea, and it whitewashes his resulting deportation to Turkey by saying "Al-Arian relocated."
The federal judge who saw all the evidence against Al-Arian, and watched him lie about his true identity and violent ambitions, called him a "master manipulator."
IPT concludes that the question is whether Georgetown and its student groups are being duped or are witting accomplices in whitewashing a terrorist into a "human rights advocate."