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Representative Anthony D. Weiner (D-N.Y.), wrote a letter to University President Lawrence H. Summers on Tuesday urging him to return the recent $20 million gift for Islamic Studies given by Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud.
Weiner said in a press release issued Dec. 13 that American universities should not accept gifts from the Saudi royals, who “have a record of funding terrorist organizations.”
“August institutions like Harvard University and Georgetown University should not accept funding from a family that bankrolls terrorist organizations,” he wrote to Summers. “Their hands should be clean of any relationship with individuals associated with terrorism.”
According to the release, the Saudi royals provide more than 50% of all funding for Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization, and they give financial assistance to families of Palestinian suicide bombers.
Weiner’s press secretary, Kathryn E. Prael, noted, “the Congressman has been very outspoken in Congress saying that Saudi Arabia should crack down on terrorism both within and outside the country.”
According to Prael, Weiner has authored and recently supported legislation to cut aid to Saudi Arabia until the country proves it does not promote terrorism.
But some at Harvard remain focused on the money’s intent, not its source.
“The purpose of this gift is to support the study of Islam as a religious and cultural tradition,” wrote Sarah Friedell, a University spokeswoman, in an e-mail.
President of the Harvard Islamic Society Khalid M. Yasin ’07 said that he found it “frustrating that people start off with a critical view [when considering something Islamic] and are unable to look past their stereotypes or whatever they have heard or read.” He said he thought the gift was an incredible opportunity for Harvard.
“The goal is to create bridges and to create ties to show what Islam is,” he said. “The gift is a sign of goodwill from a Muslim who wants to create these bonds between the so-called Western World and the Islamic World.”
But others at Harvard have questioned the source of the money.
“Although an Islamic Studies Program would be a wonderful addition to the University, the funding for it should not come from a source of extremist hate,” Amy M. Zelcer ’07, president of Harvard Students for Israel, wrote in an e-mail.
She cited a 2002 CBS Marketwatch article that said the Saudi Prince donated $27 million and 100 four wheel drive vehicles to families of Palestinian suicide bombers.
“It seems like this money has Jewish blood on it,” she said, referencing the article.
She added that for a bridge between Islam and the West to form, donations should not come only from one side.
According to Donella Rapier, Harvard’s vice president for alumni affairs and development, the gift agreement was finalized in November.
Summers could not be reached for comment yesterday.
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