A lot of people are discussing the generosity of Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud, who forked over $20 million each to Harvard and Georgetown Universities, to enhance “Islamic Studies” at both institutions. (See stories here, here, and here.)
A lot of people are looking askance at the princely gift, intended to hire faculty and provide scholarships into the field of Islam. Many remember the Prince’s offer of $10 million to New York City in the wake of 9/11, an offer that was refused by Mayor Guiliani after the prince commented that we should really look into what we did to provoke the attacks.
Others look at his involvement in Citibank and Samba (Saudi AMerican Bank), which has been accused of funneling money to Palestinian terrorists.
But I think this is a worthwhile gesture, and ought to be used to improve the relations between Muslims and the rest.
Which is why I think it would be in the spirit of the Prince’s gift to take half of it and use it to establish programs that teach the principles, histories, and beliefs of Christians and Jews in Saudi Arabian colleges. After all, understanding is an interactive thing; we should learn about them, and they should learn about us. Then, perhaps, we can indeed learn to embrace our differences and live together peacefully.
(Title shamelessly stolen from Edwin Newman)