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Congressman to Georgetown: Explain Saudi gift

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A U.S. congressman took Georgetown University to task over a $20 million gift from a Saudi prince.

In his Feb. 14 letter to the university’s president, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) referred to a Washington Times report that in 2005 Prince Alwaleed bin Talal contributed $20 million to Georgetown’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, thereby adding his name to the center’s official title.

Wolf outlined human rights abuses, restrictions on religion, tolerance for terrorism funding and official incitement in Saudi Arabia, as well as its role in promoting Wahhabism – a fundamentalist strain of Islam – around the world, and noted that the university’s School of Foreign Service trains candidates for U.S. diplomacy and other duties.

“I therefore feel compelled to seek further information and request your assurances that as this center carries out its mission ‘of building a stronger bridge of understanding between the Muslim world and the West’ it maintains the impartiality and integrity of scholarship that befits so distinguished a university as Georgetown and that is required by the exigencies of national security for training American officials,” he said.

He asked whether the center had ever published criticism of Saudi Arabia.

The university told the Washington Post it was preparing a response. Meanwhile, it released a statement saying the center’s mission is “to advance the study of Islamic civilization and Muslim-Christian understanding, and intercultural and interreligious dialogue, and educational programs in these fields.”

In 2001, then-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani returned a $10 million gift from Prince Alwaleed after the prince told reporters that U.S. foreign policy, particularly its closeness to Israel, was a reason for the attacks.

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