Despite concerns about Saudi financing of Islamic studies in the UK, the University of Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh are launching two new research centers, with Saudi financing.
Aiming to boost the study of Islam and promote a better understanding of the Muslim faith, two renowned British universities are launching research centers for Islamic studies thanks to a donation from a Saudi business tycoon, The Independent reported on Thursday May 8.
"I am pleased to support the Center of Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge and the Center for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World at the University of Edinburgh," Prince Al Waleed bin Talal told a signing ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
Cambridge and Edinburgh universities will share a £ 16-million donation made by the Saudi businessman, a member of the ruling family.
The signing ceremony was attended on Wednesday May 7, by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the chancellor of both universities.
The two universities have decades of experience in teaching Islamic studies.
For the past 250 years the university of Edinburgh has been offering a scholarship in Islamic studies.
The university is ranks first among educational institutions offering research on Islamic and Middle Eastern studies.
About 60 undergraduates join Cambridge's Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies every year.
Its Faculty of Divinity is offering courses for students interested in knowing more about Islam.
The new fund is part of efforts by Prince Al Waleed, the world's 19th richest man with $21 billion, to promote Islamic studies around the world.
Two years ago, he donated $40 million to America's famed Georgetown and Harvard universities for the expansion of their Islamic studies program.
Prince Al Waleed's Kingdom Foundation KF charity has also financed a host of cultural, educational and philanthropic ventures around the globe.
Cambridge's Prince Al Waleed Center of Islamic Studies will seek to develop constructive and critical awareness of the role of Islam in wider society.
Edinburgh's Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal Center for the Study of Islam in the Modern World will focus on promoting understanding of the history of Islamic civilization and of Muslims in Britain, home to two million Muslims.
"It is paramount for both Islam and the West to reach mutual ground for pro-active dialogue, respect, acceptance and tolerance," said Prince Al Waleed.
"We are determined to continue building the bridge between Islam and the West for peace and humanity."
Professor Yasir Suleiman, director of the Center for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Cambridge, agrees.
"The aim of the center will be to foster a deeper understanding between Islam and the West through the twin paths of high-quality research and an energetic outreach program."
He asserted that they will seek to advance tolerance, mutual understanding and cross-cultural dialogue between Islam and the West.
Public lectures, conferences and summer schools will be used to promote better understanding, with policymakers from both worlds invited to become visiting fellows at the center.
"We intend to create a world-class cadre of researchers and build partnerships with other centers and members of the European Muslim community."
Source: Islam Online (English)
See also: UK: Concerns over funding of Islamic studies