Top Kenyan scholar Prof Ali Mazrui has come under scrutiny in the United States over a perceived anti-Semitic lecture two years ago, following an award conferred upon him for promoting inter-faith harmony.
"Anti-Semite Ali Mazrui Honored by Alwaleed Bin Talal Center at Georgetown University," Campus Watch, an American lobby group monitoring Middle East studies on American campuses, announced in a message circulated on its email list.
"The population of Jews in the US is three percent ... but [their 'genius'] leads to their controlling so much power that even presidents are scared [of them]. Whether [President Barack] Obama will be able to escape the notion that three percent of the country is so powerful that the top gentile in the land cannot criticize Israel is not clear," Prof. Mazrui, director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at State University of New York, Binghamton, is said to have told an audience at Columbia University on May 6, 2010.
"Jews have been at their best when they were Europeanized...almost as if you needed a mixture of Jewishness and Europeanness [for Jewish genius]," he's also quoted as having said. Yet, Campus Watch said, Prof Mazrui's views on Jews have been overlooked in an award he has recently received.
"In spite of, or perhaps because of, this and other blatantly anti-Semitic statements recorded….Mazrui has been awarded the "2012-13 Building Bridges Award" by the Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. The Center's founding director, John Esposito, has long been among America's most vocal apologists for the radical Wahhabi branch of Islam. By honoring Ali Mazrui, the Center Esposito directs--founded with a $20 million gift from Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal--remains true to its origins," Campus Watch said.
ACMCU's website says the award, "recognizes individuals who have dedicated their life's work to fostering greater understanding between faith groups."
Mazrui and the two other recipients are recognized, it states, because their "efforts to promote interfaith relations, peace-building and social justice have been extraordinary."
The lobby, however, declares that on the basis of his remarks at Columbia, "Mazrui is no bridge builder" and that the award has strengthened that "legitimate façade for Jewish racial stereotypes." It also accuses him of over-looking excesses of Arabs in global history.
"Campus Watch calls upon ACMCU Founding Director John Esposito and Georgetown president John J DeGioia to revoke the 2012-13 Building Bridges Award from Ali Mazrui, whose anti-Semitism and efforts to revive Jewish race science make him unworthy of the esteem of Georgetown University. As the quotes and observations above illustrate, Mazrui is anything but a bridge builder as the phrase is commonly understood," the lobby's public appeal reads.
Born in Mombasa, Prof Mazrui's works have become central to studies on African history, particularly his Triple Heritage film series on the continent's roots in traditional African religion, Islam and Christianity.
He has previously fallen out of favor with the Kenyan government over his anti-establishment views, and has for years lived and lectured in the United States.
The Mazrui family, however, is at the heart of debates on historical injustices related to land at the Kenyan Coast, with some accusing it of perpetrating related violations while seemingly pushing for indigenous rights through a human rights agency based in Mombasa. Pro. Mazrui has previously served as the Chancellor of the Jomo Kenyatta University for Agriculture and Technology.