Yale Law School, the most elite law school in the country, has received a $10 million donation to establish a Sharia law center.
The Abdullah S. Kamel Center for the Study of Islamic Law and Civilization is named for its patron, a billionaire Saudi banker who serves as CEO of the Dallah al Baraka Holding Company, a large privately-held multinational conglomerate founded by his father. Its purpose will be to bring experts on Islam and Islamic law (also known as Sharia) to Yale for lectures, seminars, guest professorships, and fellowships.
It isn't the first time Kamel, who has an estimated worth of nearly $20 billion, has given money to Yale. He also sponsored a popular three-year lecture series on Islamic topics which presaged the creation of the new law center.
Yale also isn't a pioneer in having an Islamic legal program; Harvard Law School has had its own Islamic Legal Studies Program since the 1990s. Still, Yale says in establishing the center it hopes to become one of the top centers of Islamic legal scholarship on Earth.
"Every program that is established, every initiative at the Yale Law School is undertaken with the ambition to be the very best in the world," Yale Law School dean Anthony Kronman said in the Yale Daily News. "We mean for this program to be a model in that regard as well."
University president Peter Salovey added that the gift, announced once day before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, was particularly timely because of the "changing relationship between the United States and states in the Middle East."
Kamel was investigated following the Sept. 11 attacks for possible connections between his company and al-Qaida, and his father's name is included on the disputed "Golden Chain" document of alleged terror sponsors. Kamel was cleared in 2005.
Islamic programs and endowed professorships on U.S. campuses financed by wealthy Saudis are an increasingly common sight. Georgetown University, for instance, has the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, while the University of California, Berkeley, received millions of dollars from the Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud Foundation to fund Arabic and Islamic studies there.