The "unique, enigmatic and colorful" Prince Alwaleed bin Talal who is "the ultimate bridge to connect the Middle East and the West" has decided to buy FoxNews and turn it into 24-hr Khaleeji music channel. I kid. He just wants Rupert Murdoch to play nice. But I digress, as usual.
So, the "brilliant, charming, and extraordinarily hardworking" Prince Alwaleed bin Talal just donated $ 20 million each to Georgetown and Harvard for augmenting their Islam/Middle East programs. In case of Georgetown, they named their Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding after His Royalness. He wants the money to go towards promoting a healthier image of Islam in the West. It could be because he believes that the message must be managed: "Right now, the last thing Iraqis need is so many voices quarrelling through the media. This is not the time for the luxury of having so many TV channels and 200 newspapers, you canâ€šÃ„Ã´t impose U.S. democracy in Iraq," he said about the abundance of freedom in Iraq. I am sure that he is also fostering a healthier image of the West in his own kingdom.
In any case, it is good that the money comes without any strings attached, though, I would have liked that such endownments go to smaller universities as well, who can use the capital to start up a program in Islam or Middle East studies.
More interestingly, he gave 5 million to American Univeristy -Beirut to fund a Center for American Studies and Research. This used to be late Edward Said's frequent argument about the asymmetrical nature of knowledge: Why aren't the Middle Easterners studying the West?
the middle easterners are indeed studying the West, especially America....the University of Jordan and AUC both have American Studies programs, as do lots of Turkish universities. There's a Turkish-based American Studies journal, too. oh, and re: more ME/Islam programs at small schools in the US: Word. So many people end up as the one "expert" on the region on their campus, and given the current politicization of "expert knowledge" on the Middle East, no matter whether they're a specialist on medieval poetry or berber identity, they're the ones who get the calls to explain Iraq, or Palestine, or "why do they hate us." More programs/centers, with the support, outreach that entails, would make a difference. Also, given recent attempts to tie Title VI money to political oversight, more independent donor money (without strings, that is) can only help.
I spent a lot of time at the CMCU, and I find it amusing; this naming must be recent, because it didn't exist (to the best of my knowledge) a few years ago. It did offer a handful of courses relating/studying the West (and the East, natch), such as "Idolatry and Iconography in Islam and Christianity", to name but one.
I saw his interview with Charlie Rose,PBS. I tell you, this guy is real sharp and minces no words. Do glimpse through his Wikipedia profile.