Middle East studies in the News
Case Against Donor Revisited [incl. John Esposito]
by Esteban Garcia
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a major donor to the university and one of the world's richest men, is under investigation after a Spanish magistrate reopened a sexual assault case against him.
Alwaleed is accused of drugging and raping a 20-year-old model in August 2008 while sailing on his luxury yacht near the island of Ibiza in the Spanish Mediterranean. The renewal of the case comes more than a year after it was closed by a separate magistrate due to insufficient evidence.
Prince Alwaleed, nephew of His Royal Highness King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, is a businessman, investor and major stakeholder in News Corp. and Citigroup. Forbes ranked him the 26th richest man in the world and the richest man in the Middle East, valuing his fortune at nearly $20 billion.
In 2005, the prince donated $20 million each to Georgetown and Harvard to establish academic programs at the schools focused on Muslim-Christian interfaith dialogue.
Georgetown's program was titled the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and was later renamed the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal CMCU in his honor.
The donations generated controversy among the GU and Harvard communities, The Hoya reported on Jan. 13, 2006.
Former U.S. House Representative Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) wrote letters to University President John J. DeGioia and former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers protesting the donation.
"Institutions like Harvard University and Georgetown University should not accept funding from a family that bankrolls terrorist organizations," Weiner wrote.
But the center's director, John Esposito, said at the time that the donation's purpose was more important than its origin.
"The issue is not who the donor is but rather what the money is going to be used for," he said.
In the current case, Prince Alwaleed has maintained his innocence.
In an interview with The New York Times, Heba Fatani, a spokeswoman for his investment affiliate Kingdom Holding Division, said that the assault never occurred. Fatani added that the Prince did not vacation in Ibiza in 2008 nor make use of any yachts.
In the original complaint, the model, identified only as Soraya and represented by Spanish attorney Javier Beloqui, alleged that she was invited to the yacht while at a nightclub in Ibiza. Medical tests later confirmed traces of a sleep-inducing chemical in her system as well as semen. Beloqui has called for the prince to give DNA samples, but none have been provided yet.
Despite the results of the rape kit, officials found no evidence of bodily harm on the victim, prompting their previous decision to close the case.
The accuser also claimed that the dismissal of the case was due to the influence of Prince Alwaleed as a member of Saudi royalty. Prince Alwaleed has been summoned to appear before a Spanish provincial court for the continuation of court proceedings.
The Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding declined to comment.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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