Education & Academia

When Harvard Met Saudi

Demonstrating once again that Harvard has no scruples, Harvard President Larry Summers recently accepted a $10 million donation to the University by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.  The donation will be utilized to create a department chair known as the Prince Alwaweed Bin Talal Professor in Contemporary Islamic Thought and Life.  President Summers explained that the donation would “enable us to recruit additional faculty of the highest caliber, adding to our strong team of professors … [in] this important area of scholarship.”

Forgive my cynicism, but somehow I doubt that accepting a $10 million Saudi donation is primarily an exercise in broadening Harvard’s intellectual horizons.  More likely, it is about the money.

Of course, when principle and cash-flow conflict at the University, cash-flow wins every time.  Harvard, despite its asinine objections to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, continues to allow military recruitment on campus because the Solomon Amendment would otherwise withdraw federal funding.  Despite Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan’s eloquent protestations each year that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is discriminatory — she sends an email to all law students every September declaring, “I believe the military’s discriminatory employment policy is deeply wrong — both unwise and unjust” —  Harvard continues to take the money and run.  It’s no wonder that Chief Justice John Roberts, in the hearings to determine the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment, pointedly remarked, “the reason [your students] don’t believe you [when you oppose military recruitment] is because you’re willing to take the money.  What you’re saying is, ‘This is a message we believe in strongly, but we don’t believe in it to the detriment of $100 million.’”

We shouldn’t be too surprised at Harvard’s spinelessness here.  After all, the Harvard Law School has already accepted three Saudi-funded institutions devoted to the study of Islamic law.  First, there’s the King Fahd Chair for Islamic Shariah Studies; second, there’s the H.E. Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani Islamic Legal Studies Fund; third, there’s the Bakr M. Binladin Visiting Scholars Fund.  

The King Fahd Chair for Islamic Shariah Studies began with a $5 million dollar donation by the Saudi royal family in 1993.  Riyadh Daily reported: “The celebration was attended by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi ambassador to the United States, who was received by the Harvard University rector, the dean of law college and the first professor for the King Fahd Chair for Islamic Shariah Studies at Harvard University. In a press statement, Prince Bandar bin Sultan expressed his happiness over the establishment of the King Fahd Chair for Islamic Studies at Harvard University and commended the King’s efforts in supporting Islamic awareness.”  Prince Bandar is the same man whose wife allegedly funds terrorism.  The Chair itself is devoted, in the words of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Adjunct Professor of Islamic Legal Studies Frank Vogel, to “dissipat[ing] the ignorance of Islamic law, with its complex history of social, political, and religious change.”

The Bakr M. Binladin Visiting Scholars Fund was created in 1994 by Osama Bin Laden’s brother, who donated at least $1 million in all probability.  The fund is designed to bring “visiting scholars” to study law at Harvard; the “scholar” should be a citizen of a predominantly Muslim country.

Harvard has encountered trouble in the past while accepting radical Islamist cash.  In 2003, a Harvard Divinity School student led a charge to return a $2.5 million grant made by United Arab Emirates President Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, who had previously funded an anti-American and anti-Semitic think tank in Abu Dhabi.  But Harvard isn’t alone in grabbing the dough.  Former Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA) chair Professor R. Stephen Humphreys holds the King Abdulaziz Chair for Islamic Studies at the University of California in Santa Barbara.  That’s no coincidence; MESA is a systematic apologist for Islamic terrorism.  The University of California at Berkeley has accepted $5 million from a Saudi Arabian foundation headed by Prince Faisal bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz al Saud.

Is this all just good-hearted philanthropy by the proponents of radical Wahhabi ideology?  Perhaps the official Saudi daily Ain-Al-Yaqeen said it best: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia … has positively shouldered its responsibility, and played a pioneering role in order to raise the banner of Islam all over the globe and raise the Islamic call either inside or outside the Kingdom.”

Certainly Prince Alwaleed bin Talel sees charity that way.  Prince Alwaleed bin Talel, the man donating $10 million to Harvard, is the same man who attempted to donate millions to victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks, while at the same time ripping American foreign policy in the Middle East.  He told then-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani that “Our Palestinian brethren continue to be slaughtered at the hands of Israelis as the world [looks the other way].”  Giuliani turned down the money.

Harvard did not.  The University — and Larry Summers in particular — should be ashamed of themselves.  For a school so committed to “diversity” that it wants to ban the military from recruiting, embracing Saudi moneybags is sure a funny way to demonstrate strength of conviction.


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