A BILLIONAIRE Saudi prince is to donate £8 million for a new Islamic centre at Cambridge University.
The cash will be stumped up by Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, nephew of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and the 19th richest person in the world, with an estimated £15 billion fortune.
The prince hit the headlines in 2001 when his £5 million donation towards the September 11 relief effort after the attacks on the World Trade Centre was rejected by former New York mayor Rudolf Giuliani after the prince reportedly criticised American foreign policy.
If the university's plans are approved, the cash will be used to establish the HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies. It would replace the university's existing Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, and be sited at the Sidgwick Avenue campus.
The centre will "advance tolerance, mutual understanding and cross-cultural dialogue between Islam and the West", says the university.
It describes the 53-year-old prince as "a leading international businessman and philanthropist with global interests in many sectors, including banking, the media and leisure industries", and describes the offer as a "most generous benefaction".
Its Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, which runs a number of Islam-related subjects, has about 160 undergraduates.
In 2005, Prince Alwaleed paid £250 million to buy the world-famous Savoy Hotel in London, and gave £10 million to pay for the Louvre museum in Paris to construct a new wing to display Islamic art.
He has also made three £5 million donations to American universities, with his gifts to Harvard and Georgetown universities being invested in promoting Islamic studies. The prince made much of his wealth after investing millions of dollars in the then struggling Citibank.
The Islamic centre proposals are being discussed by university chiefs, with a final decision to be made later this year. The cash would be used to attract leading Islamic academics to the city, and promote the subject through seminars and publications.