The Vice Chancellor of Griffith University published the full version of his op-ed submission to The Australian on the ABC Unleashed portal. His op-ed included a rather curious explanation for why Saudi Arabia would want to fund Western universities teaching Islamic studies.
The Saudi Government seeks to moderate reactionary elements in its own society by funding Islamic research centres in prominent Western universities to develop a form of progressive Islam that has credibility and legitimacy.
The Saudi Government can appeal to the product of these Islamic research centres as a legitimate alternative to their country's more conservative policies and perspectives.
Generally, I can understand the other arguments in the VC’s op-ed. But I cannot understand how the Saudis would hope to moderate their more reactionary elements at home by funding institutions overseas? Will some of the wacky lecturers at the Islamic University of (or rather, outside) Madeena be sent to be de-programmed at Griffith or Harvard?
Thankfully, this point hasn't escaped even jaundiced commentators such as Stephen Crittenden. Sadly, Crittenden's prejudices toward some Muslim cultures have led him to instead preferring to focus on a photo of two Saudi students who wear customary Saudi head-dress. Still, it's good to see Crittenden’s self-imposed intellectual niqab hasn't totally affected his approach to this issue.
Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf