‘University of London receives Saudi funds’

This is ‘completely unacceptable’ for a university that prides itself on its support for human rights, says director of student rights.

June 19, 2011 03:00
2 minute read.
Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi of the Muslim Brotherhood

Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

LONDON – A prestigious London university has been accused of having a banned “terror preacher” on the editorial board of one of its department’s journals and receiving funding from the Saudi royal family, according to a report published by a British counter-extremism organization.

Student Rights, a London-based organization tackling extremism on campuses, said on Thursday that the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) received funding from the Saudi Arabian regime and Islamist preacher Yusuf Qaradawi, the spiritual inspiration for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, who is banned from the UK, Israel and the US.

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The information, obtained through Freedom of Information requests by Student Rights, shows close ties between the university and the Saudi Royal family, who have donated £755,000 to the school, which is renowned for its Middle East program, between 2006 and 2010.

The findings in the report led to a formal response from the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the UK, Mohammed bin Nawaf Saud, who issued a statement on Friday confirming the funding to SOAS.

“If Saudi money is questionable, then following a change in British law we will willingly abide by this and change our policy accordingly,” the ambassador said.

Student Rights says the funding source runs counter to the university’s standpoint on freedom of expression and discrimination, as well as the UN Declaration on Human Rights.

The money was donated to fund the SOAS Journal of Qu’ranic Studies, which has Qaradawi on its board, a preacher who supports suicide bombings against Israelis and has endorsed the killing of pregnant Israeli women and unborn children.

“It is completely unacceptable for a university that prides itself on its support for human rights and freedom to be effectively in bed with the Saudi Royal Family,” said Raheem Kassam, director of Student Rights. “No stone must be left unturned in a completely transparent, independent investigation to get to the bottom of how this relationship emerged and why it was perceived as beneficial.

It’s shameful.”

In a statement, the university maintained that Qaradawi only makes a small contribution to the journal.

“Yusuf al-Qaradawi and some other editorial advisers from the Middle East only advise on the Arabic section of the journal, and not on the English section.

“His academic peers and Muslim scholars in the UK and across the globe consider him to be one of the most outstanding scholars of the Koran in the Arabic and Islamic world,” the university said.

Also noted in the report, which was coordinated with Conservative MP Robert Halfon, is the university’s ties to former Lybian president Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

In 2006, SOAS established links with the regime-controlled Al- Fateh University in Tripoli.

Halfon, who tabled an Early Day Motion [a formal motion submitted for debate in the House of Commons] in Parliament in response to the report, said: “I am deeply concerned at the findings of this report by Student Rights. I will be writing to the vice chancellor of SOAS asking for an explanation.”

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