Monday, May 12, 2008

A Full-Page Ad

I don’t see many full-page ads in the Middle East ’s largest English-language paper. But money talks, here as everywhere else, which explains the spread accompanied by a photograph of his truly. The title read, “Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation, representing Kingdom Foundation, awarded the Pontifical Medal by Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican .”

Underneath was written, “This is very much in tune with HRH’s abiding commitment to the promotion of mutual understanding, knowledge, tolerance and coexistence among adherents of the various faiths, as exemplified by his generous support to Alwaleed Bin Talal Christian & Muslims Center for Understanding at Georgetown University, Alwaleed Bin Talal program for Islamic Studies at Harvard University, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World at the University of Edinburgh, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge, and Alwaleed Bin Talal Hall of Islamic Arts in the Louvre Museum, as well as many other philanthropic, educational and humanitarian contributions.”

Money not only talks, it corrupts and you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. I’m not talking about the Prince, but the universities and professors who receive millions of his money. You don’t have to be in the Kingdom very long to realize that expats who work for powerful and wealthy local sponsors walk a thin line. Cross that line and you can be on the next plane out. As one person put it last week, “You walk out of the office carrying your head under your arm.” I would imagine that the organizations mentioned above are very careful to teach a view of Islam that HRH (His Royal Highness) would approve.

It’s hard to imagine any Black Studies program at an American university without a course about the role of white Americans in slavery. I wonder how many of the universities who are beneficiaries of Prince Alwaleed seriously study, as one example among many, the history of Arab slave trade in Africa . To someone who would counter that this has nothing to do with Islam, I would reply that everything in the Middle East goes back to Islam. It was Muhammad who told his followers that along with their four wives they could also possess their female slaves.

It was years after I studied at Temple University with two of America ’s most famous Islamic professors that I learned that probably over one hundred million Africans were killed on the Arab slave routes. Of those who survived, eleven million were shipped across the Atlantic, and fourteen million were sent to the Muslim nations of North Africa and the Middle East . The highest prices on the auction blocks of Istanbul were paid for white, blonde European women. And they weren’t going there to work as nannies.

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