Friday, November 26, 2010

26-Nov-10: Gifts and good relations

Her majesty the Queen, dressed in hijabic regalia on her visit to Abu Dhabi (see our earlier post) yesterday, makes a striking sight.

The picture at right was taken when she and Prince Phillip this week visited a monumental marble shrine erected to the memory of Abu Dhabi's late leader (for more than 33 years) Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, and containing the great man's tomb. A special individual, when the sheikh spent some time in hospital during 1999 undergoing tests, he received "a personal thank-you letter with 1.5 million signatures" from the people of the UAE. Now that's political power.

In 2004, Harvard returned a $2.5 million gift it had received from Zayed for the Harvard Divinity School after it "emerged" that his Zayed International Centre for Co-ordination had sponsored lectures and publications claiming that Zionists were responsible for the Holocaust and that the US military had carried out the September 11 attacks in 2001. The stated purpose of the gift, by the way, was "to promote a better understanding of Islam among the non-Muslim peoples of the world and to foster dialogue among the world's great religions."

Undeterred, the United Kingdom's London School of Economics accepted a £2.5 million donation in 2008 which entailed naming a new lecture theatre ("holds 400 students, recently played host to BBC Radio 4's Any Questions") after Zayed - notwithstanding the opposition of the LSE Students Union.

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