The question of whether Islamic groups should accept aid from Saudi Arabia is raising debate and divisions in the American Muslim community, reports the Los Angeles Times (Dec. 1).
Since Saudi Arabia is increasingly seen as the importer of the militant “Wahhabi” branch of Islam, both the U.S. government and American Muslim groups themselves debating the consequences of accepting Saudi aid. The debate intensified after the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one of the largest Muslim groups in the U.S., received a donation from a Saudi prince to support a $2.5 million dollar project to place Islamic educational literature in America’s 16,000 public libraries.
The council says that no strings were attached to the contribution as far as determining the content of the literature. While Saudi Arabia is the largest single contributor to Islamic causes, the nation’s support of American Muslims has significantly dropped in the last decade, according to experts. Supporters of the council claim that critics are aiding a campaign by fundamentalist Christian and conservative Jewish groups to demonize the Saudis.
Others, including Sarah Eltantawi of the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council, argue that the acceptance of foreign donations could prevent American Muslims from criticizing the human-rights record of Muslim states as well as the strict brand of Saudi Wahhabi Islam.