Middle East studies in the News
Foundation Tied to Iran Has Donated to Columbia
by A. G. Sulzberger
Several months before the Iranian president made a controversial appearance at Columbia University in 2007, the Alavi Foundation — a nonprofit organization that had long supported educational programs related to Islamic and Iranian culture at schools and universities — donated $100,000 to Columbia.
The donation, the largest of many the foundation has made to Columbia, became a matter of interest this month when federal prosecutors accused the foundation of illegally providing money and services to Iran.
David M. Stone, a spokesman for Columbia, said Monday that the donation came several months before the speaking invitation was extended to the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "We were as surprised as every other university and nonprofit group that may have received such donations about the recent news reports regarding this foundation," Mr. Stone said.
The Alavi Foundation has denied the government charges and is fighting government efforts to seize its properties, including a majority interest in a Fifth Avenue office building and properties in Queens and around the country that are home to mosques. A lawyer for the foundation declined to comment.
The foundation donated a total of about $332,000 to Columbia over about 25 years for classes in Persian language and culture, Mr. Stone said. The July 2007 grant of $100,000 was for a course in classical Persian language, he said, which received an additional $50,000 from the foundation the following year.
Any connection between the donation and the invitation to Mr. Ahmadinejad, he said, "is false, and does not stand up to rational scrutiny." Other universities, including Rutgers, Harvard and Portland State, also received regular donations from the foundation. The Columbia donation was previously reported by The New York Post.
While in town to address the United Nations, Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia on Sept. 24, 2007, after being invited earlier that month. Lee C. Bollinger, the university president, drew both praise and criticism for his tough introductory remarks, during which he declared, "Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator."
In his comments, Mr. Ahmadinejad made passing mention of "this unfriendly treatment." He also claimed that there were no homosexuals in Iran and that the Holocaust should be treated as theory, not fact.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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