In a surprising development, the news about Texas A&M main campus cutting ties with the Qatar campus has triggered a wave of reactions on social media. Disappointment and sadness are palpable among students and locals in response to this unexpected decision.
The claim that Texas A&M is cutting ties with the Qatar campus due to “heightened instability in the Middle East” seems questionable. The reasoning lacks specificity and raises eyebrows, as it simplifies a situation that likely involves more factors.
From context clues, it appears that the university is linking the instability in the Middle East to the ongoing situation in Palestine.
In a message of support published on October 13, 2023, interim president Mark A. Welsh III appeared to maintain a neutral stance on the events unfolding in Gaza, much like many campuses across the United States. If the campus’s initial statement was impartial, what developments transpired in the 118 days that led to the decision to ultimately conclude their branch in Qatar?
A month after the genocide, Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, CEO of the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), urged U.S. universities in Qatar to demand the Royal Family hand over Hamas leaders. He criticized universities, including Texas A&M, for operating in a country he considers a state sponsor of “terrorism” and “extremism.”
The historical media framing of Arabs and Muslims, particularly post-9/11, continues to impact contemporary decisions. Edward Said’s observations in his book, Covering Islam, highlight the narrow portrayal of Muslims and Arabs as either oil suppliers or potential terrorists, contributing to enduring misconceptions.
This media construction persists. It is exemplified by CEP’s recent letter to Texas A&M’s president regarding the Qatar branch. The letter cites concerns about the October 7 attacks and Hamas, thereby reinforcing biased perspectives. These biases impacted the decision-making process when the Board of Reagents had to decide whether to renew their contract with Qatar Foundation (QF) or not.
On X (formerly known as Twitter), QF disputes Texas A&M’s decision, alleging a disinformation campaign influenced it. QF expresses disappointment, accusing the institution of succumbing to political pressures and misinformation over educational principles. QF emphasizes its commitment to a world-class education ecosystem, citing partnerships and dedication to education, research, and social development. The statement underscores QF’s belief in prioritizing education above vested interests.
The framing of Arabs and Arab states in Western media, particularly post-9/11, has perpetuated biased perspectives, as highlighted by Edward Said’s observations in “Covering Islam.” Muslims and Arabs are often portrayed narrowly as either oil suppliers or potential terrorists, contributing to enduring misconceptions. This media construction continues to impact contemporary decisions, exemplified by the recent case where the CEP urged Texas A&M University to sever ties with QF over concerns related to the October 7 attacks and Hamas.
The ongoing media framing of Arabs and Muslims significantly influences decisions, exemplified by the Texas A&M-QF case. The clash between media narratives, political considerations, and educational principles highlights the complexity of international partnerships in an environment shaped by historical biases.
So, what’s next?
The recent developments at TAMU-Q evoke a sense of sadness and disappointment. In light of this, QF could consider reassessing collaborations with American institutions, recognizing the inherent political nature of universities and the presence of underlying agendas.