Qatar Leads the Way; Pushing Education, Tolerance, Pluralism

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Byline: S. Rob Sobhani, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

As the world focuses on the conflict between Israel and Iran's proxy, Hezbollah, a quiet revolution to remove oppression and despair that often leads to terrorism is taking place in neighboring Qatar under the leadership of a dynamic and charismatic woman. Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al Missned is the wife of the amir of Qatar, one of America's strongest allies in the troubled Middle East. While President Bush believes that the removal of terrorism requires a major transformation of the Middle East through the promotion of liberty and democracy, the sheikha has focused on a new mission of statecraft: good governance.

For the sheikha, the three major pillars of good governance are education reform, religious tolerance and political pluralism, all of which she firmly believes can take root in the Middle East. Ultimately, good governance means serving the people-in her mind the most valuable asset of a nation.

She approaches her mission to transform the hearts and minds of the Arab Muslim world with a level of professionalism seldom seen in that part of the world. Her success to date can only be explained by her personality: Disciplined, focused, agenda-driven, and working according to a code of meritocracy. Armed with a degree in sociology from the University of Qatar that she received in 1986 and three doctorates from Virginia Commonwealth University, Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon, she has a clear vision to transform this energy-rich Sunni Arab state into the education hub of the Middle East.

The nerve center of her drive for education reform is the Qatar Foundation, a nonprofit enterprise dedicated to promoting the arts and sciences, and educating younger generations. The Qatar Foundation created Education City, a 24,000-acre multi-institutional campus, which is home to leading American institutions and think tanks. American universities including Georgetown, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon and Cornell have set up satellite campuses in Education City, thus enabling Qataris and other Arab Muslims to obtain a Western education. The Rand-Qatar Policy Institute is a new center for independent policy analysis staffed with local scholars. The Rand Corp. is also assisting in the development of a plan to revamp primary and secondary education in Qatar.

The sheikha believes that education is an anchor of good governance because it encourages free thinking and tolerance of other cultures and ideas. …