An Ontario college is being asked to turn down a $2-million donation that will fund a new Chair in Islamic Studies. Those opposed say that the groups donating the cash have obvious links to jihad and terrorism. But the principal of Huron College at the University of Western Ontario, who took the money, says she’s satisfied that the groups aren’t violent and that they won’t have any influence on courses or hiring.
The opponents, headed by London resident Rory Leishman, outlined their worries in a letter this week. They noted that the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC), which donated some of the money, supports Hassan Al-Banna’s vision of Islam. Al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood, an Arab political group that has acted violently against those who don’t follow Islam and which has called for the “obliteration” of Israel. Wael Haddara, president of the MAC, told The Toronto Sun that his group is not violent, even though they “firmly believe that there is a tremendous amount of good in the writings, works and life of Al-Banna and the traditions of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
But it’s not just influence from the MAC that opponents are worried about. Half of the donation will come from the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT), whose past leaders were supporters of the terrorist group Hamas, according to a U.S. Customs report. Temple University University in Philadelphia rejected a $1.5 million gift from the group in 2008 over concerns about its links to terrorism.
Trish Fulton, Acting Principal of Huron College, said that she is satisfied that there are no links to terrorism. “We have a due diligence process that — it includes a site visit, a review of tax returns and any other information available on the organization — and we follow that before we entertain any gift of a certain size or gift from individuals or organizations,” she told The Sun.
“Islamic studies is a legitimate subject for academic inquiry and we are very proud that this is the first chair of Islamic studies in a family of theology in Canada,” added Fulton. The petitioners say they aren’t arguing about the establishment of a chair, but who the school should taking money from.