Saudi ambassador defends SOAS funds

The Saudi ambassador to Britain has written an open letter to MPs defending donations to the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

The JC revealed last week that SOAS had received donations of £755,000 from the Saudi royal family over the past four years. This was used to fund the college's Islamic Studies Centre and a Journal of Islamic Studies. Controversially, the editorial board of the journal includes Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has supported suicide bombings and attacks on Israeli civilians.

The issue of the Saudi funding of SOAS was first raised by Harlow MP Robert Halfon and anti-extremist pressure group Student Rights.

Mohammed al-Saud, himself a member of the royal family, said: "These donations have been voluntarily made and are a matter of record. If Saudi money is questionable, then following a change in British law we will willingly abide by this and change our policy accordingly."

He did not address the issue of Mr al-Qaradawi's membership of the editorial board. But he defended the reputation of Professor Muhammad Abdel Haleem OBE, director of the Centre of Islamic Studies at SOAS. Professor Haleem is on the board of trustees of the Saudi-funded King Fahad Academy in East Acton, which was discovered to have used textbooks describing Christians as pigs and Jews as apes. The ambassador said the school has subsequently been given a clean bill of health by schools insopectorate Ofsted and approved to run the International Baccalaureate.

Last updated: 2:20pm, June 23 2011