Harvard Divinity School is considering the return of a $2.5 million gift from the president of the United Arab Emirates, after students raised concerns about the leader's link to a virulently anti-American, anti-Semitic think tank.
The UAE president, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, wrote Harvard a check about three years ago to endow a chair in his name for "Islamic Religious Studies."
But in March, a 23-year-old theology student from Tennessee, Rachel Fish, presented 70 pages of evidence to the divinity school's dean, William Graham, showing that Mr. Zayed might also support the controversial Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-up in Abu-Dhabi.
Harvard claims it was already looking into the matter before Ms. Fish complained, but since then, it has postponed its professor search and hired an independent researcher to investigate.
Mr. Graham said the school takes the issue "extremely seriously." But he said Harvard isn't sure whether Mr. Zayed has links to the Zayed Center, which the dean called "repugnant and indefensible."
The center's Web site claims it was "established in fulfillment of the vision of His Highness Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan."
A spokesman for the UAE embassy in Washington refused to comment.
Despite uncertainties surrounding the nature of the connection between Mr. Zayed and the Zayed Center, experts said it seems like there is a pretty clear link.
"Nothing gets done in the United Arab Emirates that doesn't have the okay of the government," the director of the Middle East studies program at the University of Vermont, Gregory Gause, said. "You can't infer that everything they do represents his point of view, but it was established under his patronage."
Mr. Gause said he has visited many think tanks in the UAE, and he said the Zayed Center "is more willing to give a platform to very anti-American beliefs."
In the past few years, the center has hosted a wide range of anti-Western, anti-Semitic speakers.
One speaker was Umayma Jalahma, who wrote a two-part series in a Riyadh newspaper claiming that Jews use the blood of non-Jewish babies to prepare Passover Hamantaschen.
Another was Therry Meyssan, the French writer who wrote "The Appalling Fraud" about how the American military was responsible for orchestrating the September 11 attacks.
On September 11, 2001, it hosted Mohammed Ahmad Hussain of Cairo University, who said Jews invented the Holocaust as part of a "long term orchestrated campaign aiming at the perpetuation of the ‘persecution of the Jews' or what they call the Holocaust."
The director of the New England office of the Anti-Defamation League, Robert Leikind, called the center a "clearing house for some of the worst forms of incitement and anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism."
He said Harvard should return the money unless Mr. Zayed has renounced all connections between himself and the center.
Ms.Fish called the Web site's content "shocking," and had a similar reaction to Mr. Leikind's.
"The divinity school prides itself on being a pluralistic and tolerant community," she said. "You shouldn't accept funds from an organization that is exactly the opposite."
A divinity school spokeswoman, Wendy McDowell, said Mr. Graham would decide whether it would return the money before fall, when the school is scheduled to start using the funds