Did Saudi money influence Yale’s Motoon climbdown?

We missed this when it came out, but it is worth looking at. Martin Kramer makes a strong case suggesting that money, rather than fear, was behind Yale University Press’s bizarre decision to publish The Cartoons That Shook The World without any of the cartoons in it.

It was Yale University, rather than the independent Press, which called in the “experts” who warned against publication, effectively forcing YUP’s decision. In April this year Yale University had appointed one Muna AbuSulayman as a “Yale World Fellow” for 2009, which is a semester-long fellowship. AbuSulayman directs the charitable foundation of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal – the 5th richest person in the world. This charitable foundation sets up centres for Islamic studies at universities around the world, most notably Harvard and Georgetown which received $20 million each in 2005.

Kramer puts two and two together:

Can you imagine a better way to set the stage for a major Alwaleed gift? Hosting for a semester the very person who structured the Harvard and Georgetown gifts, and who now directs Alwaleed’s charitable foundation? A stroke of genius.

Imagine, then—and we’re just imagining—that someone in the Yale administration, perhaps in President Levin’s office, gets wind of the fact that Yale University Press is about to publish a book on the Danish cartoons—The Cartoons That Shook the World. The book is going to include the Danish cartoons, plus earlier depictions of the Prophet Muhammad tormented in Dante’s Inferno, and who-knows-what-else. Whooah! Good luck explaining to people like Prince Alwaleed that Yale University and Yale University Press are two different shops. The university can’t interfere in editorial matters, so what’s to be done? Summon some “experts,” who’ll be smart enough to know just what to say. Yale will be accused of surrendering to an imagined threat by extremists. So be it: self-censorship to spare bloodshed in Nigeria or Indonesia still sounds a lot nobler than self-censorship to keep a Saudi prince on the line for $20 million.

All eyes on Yale for the next year or so. Will they be receiving a “gift” from the Saudi prince to help build a new centre for Islamic studies?

4 Responses to “Did Saudi money influence Yale’s Motoon climbdown?”

  1. barriejohn says:

    Islamic Studies. Is that another oxymoron?

  2. This raises a larger question, which is why aren’t Harvard and Georgetown leery of Saudi money? Presumably they wouldn’t accept a donation from the Taliban – why do they think Saudi money is okay? Is it just the general myth that the Saudis are “moderate” and friends o’ the west therefore we “share common values”? But surely a reputable university like Harvard or Georgetown ought to be able to look a little harder than that.

  3. I now wonder; did the Erasmus University in Rotterdam already get any oil dollars?
    Perhaps they’re still waiting for them, which will probably be futile after kicking out Ramadan, who should not have been hired in the first place.

  4. Stuart H. says:

    If it is indicative of the situation, better keep an eye on Oxford too.
    Take a look at the Said Business School entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sa%C3%AFd_Business_School
    Funnily enough, one of the latest projects is meant to fund academic research into fraud & money laundering.