Islamic University of Gaza


 The Boston Globe has profiled the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG), closely tied Hamas. According to the report:

… the Islamic University is no fringe institution: It’s the top university in Gaza. The majority of students here study secular topics; not all of them are even religious. If you want to get a degree in Gaza, a territory that is home to more than a million people, it’s simply the best place to go. At the same time, the university is something else again: the brain trust and engine room of Hamas, the Islamist movement that governs Gaza and has been a standard-bearer in the renaissance of radical Islamist militant politics across the Middle East. Thinkers here generate the big ideas that have driven Hamas to power; they have written treatises on Islamic governance, warfare, and justice that serve as the blueprints for the movement’s political and militant platforms. And the university’s goal is even more radical and ambitious than that of Hamas itself, an organization devoted primarily to war against Israel and the pursuit of political power. Its mission is to Islamicize society at every level, with a focus on Gaza but aspirations to influence the entire Islamic world….. Today Hamas doesn’t run the Islamic University, but the overlap of the party and the school is nearly seamless. Scientists and academics at the university double as Hamas technocrats: doctors, engineers, economists, teachers, and media specialists. The Islamic University serves as an employment program and intellectual retreat for Hamas leaders, giving a perch to the prime minister, the foreign minister, and bureaucrats in charge of ministries. In neighboring Israel, the Islamic University has become a symbol of recalcitrant Palestinian hatred. Many faculty members share Hamas’s most hard-line beliefs, which include denying Israel’s right to exist. Israelis often talk about the university as if it were a key source of Hamas suicide bombers and missile manufacturers, a kind of clubhouse and recruiting ground. But to blame the university is to ignore the fact that much of Gaza is full of underground weapons labs and volunteers for martyrdom. In this, the university reflects the culture around it as much as it shapes it.

The Globe report also details the IUG’s origins in the Muslim Brotherhood:

When the Islamic University was founded in 1978, there wasn’t a single institution of higher education in the Gaza Strip. Its founders were members of the militant Muslim Brotherhood, believers that society should be organized according to Koranic principles, and they conceived the university as a sort of greenhouse for their brand of pure, uncompromising Islamism. At the time, Gaza was a freewheeling resort city, its seaside restaurants full of visiting Israelis and Egyptians attracted by Gaza’s famous grilled fish. Secular Palestinians dominated society and the power structure in the 1970s, and scoffed at the prospect of Islamists making inroads. With no local competition, the Islamic University had the market on higher education all to itself, a monopoly that took on greater importance as Israel made it harder and harder for Gazans to leave their territory to study in the West Bank. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brothers running the university turned their efforts to community and political organizing, leading within a decade to the establishment of Hamas, whose name in Arabic is an acronym for “Islamic Resistance Movement.” By the dawn of the new millennium, the Oslo Accords were collapsing, the secular Palestinian Authority was proving an ineffectual government, and Israelis were souring on the peace process. Gaza’s culture transformed in a historical blink: Hamas had risen in a couple of decades from an underground network of imams, teachers, and militants to a juggernaut that dominated Gaza’s increasingly pious and conservative population.

Between 2002 and 2006, the U.S. provided nearly $1 million dollar in aid to the IUG as well as the 1,000 Palestinian students at the University which is  sponsored by the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a Saudi religious organization closely tied to the global Muslim Brotherhood. IUG is also known to be a favorite recipient of donations collected by organizations comprising the Union of Good, a worldwide coalition of charities collecting money for Hamas and headed by global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi. In 2007, the New York Times reported that IUG was “one of the prime means for Hamas to convert Palestinians to its Islamist cause.” A report carried recently on a Union of Good Web site indicates that a Gaza convoy “visited and hailed” the IUG after its arrival.