This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at

Saudi funding for Harvard and Georgetown to promote Wahhabism

March 12, 2006

Major US Universities Receive Grant for Study of Islam

This news was updated on Thursday, December 15, 2005

Harvard University and Georgetown University are beneficiaries of about $20 million each as grants from Saudi Arabian businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the two universities announced this week. The grants will fund expansion of the Center of Christian Muslim Understanding at Georgetown University and the establishment of four professorial chairs at Harvard University.

Prince Alwaleed is reputed to be the fifth wealthiest person in the world, with considerable investments in the United States. He has spoken about and funded initiatives to bridge the gap of understanding between America and the Muslim world. These initiatives have included the building of centers for America studies at American University in Cairo and the American University in Beirut.

The decision to award major grants to Georgetown and Harvard followed a systematic process of evaluating programs for the study of Islam at several prominent universities in the U.S. "Bridging the understanding between East and West is important for peace and tolerance," Prince Alwaleed said.

For further details of the grants, visit the following links:
Grant to Harvard University
Grant to Georgetown University


Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal donates $20 million to support the Harvard University Islamic Studies Program

Prince Alwaleed: 'Bridging the understanding between East and West is important for peace and tolerance'

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal
Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal

Harvard University today (Dec. 12) announced the creation of a University-wide program on Islamic studies, made possible by a $20 million gift from Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud. The new program will build on Harvard's strong commitment to the study of the religious traditions of the world. It will also augment Harvard's existing strength by increasing the number of faculty focused on Islamic studies, providing additional support to graduate students, and making rare Islamic textual sources available in digital format.

"We are very grateful to Prince Alwaleed for his generous gift to Harvard," said President Lawrence H. Summers. "This program will enable us to recruit additional faculty of the highest caliber, adding to our strong team of professors who are focusing on this important area of scholarship."

Islam represents one of the world's great religious and cultural traditions, one that has spread far beyond its historical roots in the Middle East to encompass diverse populations and ethnic groups in Asia, Africa, Europe, and America.

"I am pleased to support Islamic studies at Harvard and I hope that this program will enable generations of students and scholars to gain a thorough understanding of Islam and its role both in the past and in today's world," Prince Alwaleed said. "Bridging the understanding between East and West is important for peace and tolerance."

Scholarship on the Islamic tradition at Harvard currently encompasses a broad range of disciplines, from religious studies, history, and law, to art and literature. This gift will make it possible to add strength in important disciplines such as the history of science and new areas of study, such as Islamic Inner-Asian, Southeast Asian, or South Asian studies. "For a university with global aspirations, it is critical that Harvard have a strong program on Islam that is worldwide and interdisciplinary in scope," said Harvard University Provost Steven E. Hyman, who will coordinate the new program's implementation.

Harvard University has the largest assemblage in the English-speaking world of specialists in one or another aspect of Islamic tradition, including such scholars as Gurney Professor of History Roy P. Mottahedeh, a major Islamic social historian; Professor of Islamic Religious Studies Baber Johansen, a leading specialist in Islamic law; and Jewett Professor of Arabic Wolfhart Heinrichs, a pre-eminent literary expert. However, the primary strength of Islamic studies at Harvard lies both in the coverage of a broad range of fields of study in the early and middle periods of Islamic history (ca. A.D. 600-1800), particularly in the greater Middle East, and also in the truly exceptional collections of primary and secondary sources within the Harvard University Library system. Harvard's capacity in non-Middle Eastern and modern Islamic studies does not match its depth in traditional Islamic studies, and the new gift will do much to remedy this.

In order to represent more fully the global reach of Islam past and present, Harvard wants to expand its coverage of the vast field of Islamic studies. Building on existing strengths, a larger concentration of faculty focused on Islam and an increased number of the most promising graduate students in this area will make Islamic studies a more visible and important part of the curricula of Harvard's faculties. This will improve its coverage of the historical, religious, and cultural aspects of Islamic life around the world and throughout history.

The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University will bring together faculty, students, and researchers from across the University and will be housed within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) in close coordination with Harvard Divinity School. The program will establish four new faculty positions, enabling Harvard to attract a group of additional outstanding academics from a broad range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. An endowed chair known as the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor in Contemporary Islamic Thought and Life will be created, and an additional endowment fund will be established to support three senior professorships in other areas of Islamic studies. The program also will provide support for research, tuition, fees, and stipends for graduate students.

In addition, the program will launch an initiative known as the Islamic Heritage Project, which will preserve and digitize historically significant Islamic materials and make vast quantities of the resulting images - including digitized texts of the classics of the Islamic tradition - available via the Internet. Among other things, this initiative will help guard against the potential loss of important texts, which could be endangered under a variety of circumstances, as demonstrated by the recent tragic destruction of manuscripts in Iraq and Bosnia and the neglect and deterioration of manuscript libraries around the world.

Currently, Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences offers programs in Indo-Muslim culture, Arabic and Islamic studies, and Islamic art, and the FAS Center for Middle Eastern Studies publishes a journal on the Middle East and the world of Islam. Harvard Law School's Islamic Legal Studies Program advances knowledge and understanding of Islamic law. At the Design School, the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture promotes research and teaching on Islamic art, architecture, and urbanism. The Divinity School has been building its faculty in Islamic studies, and since 2000 has on three occasions helped its students host a conference titled "Islam in America" to explore the role of Islam in the American consciousness. As Harvard Islamic religion scholar William A. Graham, who is the Murray A. Albertson Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, John Lord O'Brian Professor of Divinity, and dean of the Faculty of Divinity, pointed out, "The new program will build on a robust platform of Islamic studies that has developed over several decades across the University."

William C. Kirby, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Edith and Benjamin Geisinger Professor of History, commented, "As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, a sophisticated understanding of world religions and cultures is critical to being an educated person in the 21st century." Islam is the religion of roughly 20 percent of the world's population. Muslims make up a majority of the populations in more than 30 countries, and the religion continues to grow worldwide. Accordingly, student interest in Islamic studies is increasing, suggesting a demand for expanded programming in this area. Since the Faculty of Arts and Sciences launched a Core Curriculum course titled "Understanding Islam and Contemporary Muslim Societies" in 1988, the course has consistently drawn close to 150 students each time it has been offered.

The program's benefactor, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, is known for a wide range of philanthropic activities worldwide. Also today, a gift of $20 million was given by Prince Alwaleed to expand the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. He also recently agreed to finance the construction of a new Islamic wing at the Louvre Museum in Paris, and, in 2003 Prince Alwaleed launched plans to fund construction of 10,000 housing units for poor families in Saudi Arabia. He gave a $19 million donation to South East Asia's tsunami victims and made a SR20 million contribution during a live televised Saudi telethon to raise relief for the Pakistani earthquake victims in October 2005. Prince Alwaleed additionally made a $5 million donation to establish the Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR) at the American University in Beirut (AUB) and donated $10 million to finance the construction of the Humanities and Social Sciences (HUSS) building at the new campus of the American University in Cairo (AUC). Further, the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, England, received a 1 million endowment from the prince. Recently, Prince Alwaleed gave a major gift to support the Dubai Harvard Foundation for Medical Research. This foundation was launched as part of a strategic partnership between Harvard Medical School's international arm, Harvard Medical International, and Dubai Healthcare City to support biomedical research and academic programs that will both advance new scientific knowledge and create a regional community of leaders in science and medicine.

University News Georgetown Receives $20 Million Gift HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal's Gift To Expand Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding

Georgetown University has received a $20 million dollar gift from HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, an internationally renowned businessman and global investor, to support and expand its Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (CMCU). The Center, part of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, is an international leader in inter-religious scholarship and research, in particular Islamic studies and Muslim-Christian relations. The Center will be renamed The HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. This endowed fund is the second largest single gift in Georgetown University history.

"We are deeply honored by Prince Alwaleed's generosity," said Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia. "This gift will deepen Georgetown's ability to advance education in the fields of Islamic civilization and Muslim-Christian understanding and strengthen its presence as a world leader in facilitating cross-cultural and inter-religious dialogue. At this time of world conflict, Georgetown is committed to build upon our role as a Catholic, Jesuit institution in fostering greater understanding among religions around the word."

"This generous gift reflects the commitment of Prince Alwaleed to inter-religious understanding in the Muslim world and the West. It will enable the Center in these critical times to significantly expand its programs, influence and impact both here and overseas," said Dr. John L. Esposito, Founding Director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

"I am pleased to support the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. It is vital for the monotheistic religions to reach a common ground of understanding and to gain knowledge about what unites our civilizations," said Prince Alwaleed. "We are determined to build a bridge between Islam and Christianity for tolerance that transcends cultural and geographical boundaries."

Prince Alwaleed's gift will allow the Center, founded in 1993 as the only program of its kind to build stronger bridges between the Muslim world and the West as well as between Islam and Christianity, to strengthen its mission. The founding of the Center was made possible through the initiatives and generous support of Hasib Sabbagh, a longtime supporter and former member of the Georgetown University Board of Directors. The gift will endow three faculty chairs, expand programmatic and academic outreach activities, provide new scholarship support for students, broaden opportunities for research and policy discussions and expand library facilities. The professorships and scholarships funded by HRH Prince Alwaleed's gift also will be named in his honor.

Prince Alwaleed, Chairman of the Kingdom Holding Company and a member of the Saudi Royal Family and one of the world's leading philanthropists, supports many educational and humanitarian initiatives. He recently donated $20 million to the Louvre in support of its collection of Islamic art and created the first Centers for American Studies and Research in the Arab World at the American University of Beirut and the American University in Cairo. He has also made donations to President George H.W. Bush Sr., Scholarship fund established by Phillips Academy, the Carter Center for Peace and Health Programs in Africa, and given substantial aid to the Tsunami victims.

Source: Office of Communications (December 12, 2005)

This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at