Harvard to return gift from United Arab Emirates president
BOSTON - Harvard Divinity School will return a gift of $2.5 million from the president of the United Arab Emirates after the donor asked for his money back.
The money's return ends years of controversy surrounding the connection of the president, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to an Abu Dhabi-based think tank that had been accused of supporting anti-Semitic activities.
"Recently, representatives of the UAE informed Harvard of the donor's desire to withdraw the gift for the Zayed Professorship," the school said in a statement Monday.
The university proposed in 1998 that the gift be used for a divinity school professorship in Islamic religious studies. Sheik Zayed signed off on the donation in 2000.
A number of students and faculty objected to the gift and urged Harvard to return the funds. They said the Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-up, which was established with the aim of promoting Arab unity, had sponsored speeches and published writing from people accused of anti-Semitism. And the center's executive director had also been documented as making anti-Semitic statements.
The center's official patron was the Arab League, but it had been funded and hosted by the Emirates since it opened in 1999.
The UAE closed the center last August, and Harvard put the gift "on hold" as it reviewed whether to return the money.
The UAE embassy in Washington did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
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