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May 07, 2003

UC Berkeley program funded by Saudis with links to terrorism

Middle Eastern Studies Program accepted significant funds from groups linked to terrorism
UC Berkeley administrators ignored reports yesterday that a campus Middle Eastern studies program has accepted significant funds from groups and individuals linked to terrorism by the US State Department.

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies runs two programs whose stated missions are to increase “understanding of Islam and of Muslim peoples and cultures in the United States and around the world.” But those programs are funded by a Saudi businessman and a member of the Saudi royal family who the State Department maintains are responsible for funneling money to groups that sponsor terrorism.

The center’s Sultan Program is named for and funded by Sultan bin Abdulaziz al Saud, the second deputy prime minister of Saudi Arabia. Al Saud has been implicated as having a direct hand in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and is currently a defendant in the $1 trillion class action lawsuit filed by the families of the attacks’ victims.

“At best, Prince Sultan (al Saud) was grossly negligent in the oversight and administration of charitable funds, knowing they would be used to sponsor international terrorism, but turning a blind eye,” states the brief filed by the victims’ attorneys. “At worst, Prince Sultan directly aided and abetted and materially sponsored al Qaeda and international terrorism.”

Al Saud, also the Saudi minister of defense, chairs the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, charged with reviewing and granting aid requests from Islamic organizations. Since Al Saud has administered charitable giving for the kingdom, it has funded organizations the federal government and UN have acknowledged aid and abet terrorism. They include the International Islamic Relief Organization, al-Haramain, Muslim World League and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth.

Al Saud was publicly thanked for his contributions to the International Islamic Relief Organization by the organization’s secretary general just 10 months before the Sept. 11 attacks.

That organization has been connected with the funding of al Qaeda, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It has also been directly linked with the 1993 World Trade Center Bombings, plots to assassinate former President Clinton and the Pope, as well as plans to destroy the Lincoln Tunnel and Brooklyn Bridge. It is headed by Mohammed Khalifa, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law who the federal government has branded a principal leader of global terrorism.

“Beginning with the Gulf War, Prince Sultan took radical stands against western countries and publicly supported and funded several Islamic charities that were sponsoring Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda operations,” the brief states.

Al Saud is among the primary defendants in the case which alleges the named defendants’ financial and material support “are what allowed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 to occur.”

University administrators declined to comment on the connections between the center’s benefactors and terrorism. But the vice chair of the center did acknowledge the programs receive funding from Al Saud and another organization with ties to terrorism. Vice Chair Emily Gottreich said the majority of the center’s funding comes from the US Department of Education, but university officials refused to turn budget documents to the Patriot yesterday.[more]