WASHINGTON – A $20 million gift to Georgetown University from a wealthy Saudi prince has raised the eyebrows of Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who wants an accounting of the Washington, D.C., college's use of the money.
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in 2005 donated the money to Georgetown, which in turn renamed a Muslim studies center at the school for the prince.
Wolf wrote to Georgetown officials Thursday asking for assurances that the school "maintains the impartiality and integrity of scholarship" at the school, The Washington Post reports.
Wolf questioned whether the center continued to be impartial in its study of Islam, and noted that the Saudi government has in the past paid for activities suspected of supporting Islamic extremists.
The Saudi government espouses Wahhabism, a conservative brand of Sunni Islam, and it has been criticized by international human rights organizations for discrimination against non-Sunnis.
"It is also important to know if the center has examined Saudi links to extremism and terrorism, including the relationship between Saudi public education and the Kingdom-supported clerical establishment, on the one hand, and the rise of anti-American attitudes, extremism and violence in the Muslim world, on the other," Wolf wrote in the letter.
Wolf pointed to a December article in The Washington Times, which detailed the relationship between the school and the prince, as evidence of his concerns.
Wolf is co-author of a bill that created the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which issued a report last year that was critical of a private Saudi-run academy in the Washington, D.C., suburbs.
According to the Post, Georgetown officials said the cash is being used "to advance the study of Islamic civilization and Muslim-Christian understanding, and intercultural and interreligious dialogue, and educational programs in these fields."
The Post said Saudi officials did not return phone calls.
It is not the first time bin Talal is at the center of controversy. In 2001, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani returned a $10 million donation made by bin Talal to assist with rebuilding efforts following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Giuliani took offense to comments by bin Talal, who said the United States must "re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause."