While Harvard depends on the generous donations of its benefactors, nothing is gained from a gift that taints its integrity. The University is right to freeze a $2.5-million donation from Shiekh Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), until the full extent of his connection to an extremist think tank that he founded, the Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-up, is brought to light.
Sheikh Zayed made the donation to the Harvard Divinity School (HDS) in 2000 to support the worthy goal of hiring an Islamic studies professor. Unfortunately, it came to light last spring that the Zayed Center has hosted Holocaust deniers and speakers who accuse the United States government of carrying out the Sept. 11 attacks. The Zayed Center was closed by the UAE in August, but Harvard has put the donation on hold for the coming year, "in view of the evolving situation," according to a University spokesperson.
HDS should take this opportunity to carry out an independent investigation into the UAE president's connection to the Zayed Center. The government of the UAE claims that the center's views are inconsistent with the values of Sheikh Zayed. If this is the truth, the donation should be used to fund the Islamic studies professorship as was originally intended. However, if HDS should find that the Shiekh was aware of the views propogated by the Zayed Center, the money should be promptly returned. No donation is worth indebting the University to practioners of hate and bigotry.