Jesus Christ is reported as once declaring: “Ask and ye shall receive.” But when it comes to Griffith University’s dealings with foreign embassies, Richard Kerbaj reckons what Christ really said was: “Ask and we’ll treat it as begging and attach lots of Wahhabi ideological strings.”
His article in today’s Australian claims Griffith University in Brisbane “practically begged the Saudi embassy to bankroll its Islamic campus for $1.3 million.” The headline (which Kerbaj probably didn’t write) screams: “Top uni ‘begged’ for Saudi money”.
And what was the size of the bankroll? $1.3 million? $1 million? $500,000? Nope. A measly $100,000, representing just under 7.7 % of the total funds required. And the rest of the money? Where did it (and will it) come from? Perhaps from another government…
Kerbaj makes much of criticism from Dr Mervyn Bendle, an academic from James Cook University, who is critical of Griffith for accepting the donation. Kerbaj describes Bendle as a “senior lecturer in the history of terrorism”. Though that’s not quite how James Cook Uni’s website describes Dr Bendle.
Kerbaj also repeats the mantra that the official religion of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabic (known as Wahhabism) “is espoused by al-Qaida.” Yes, Dicky, that’s true. But then Wahhabism is also espoused by many Saudi scholars, both religious and secular, with little truck for Mr bin-Laden and his gang of not-so-merry men.
And what has been the impact of this Saudi largesse? Well, at the Griffith Islamic Research Unit’s most recent conference, the Saudi Ambassador did manage to give a speech. Then again, so did Indigenous Elder Auntie Valda Coolwell and Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services. As did staunch critics of Wahhabism such as myself and an openly anti-Wahhabi American imam now based in Sydney who left a university in Saudi Arabia to study religion under Turkish scholars hostile to Wahhabism.
In fact, the place was virtually stacked out with anti-Wahhabists. If my religion allowed gambling, I’d be prepared to place money on the fact that you’d see more Wahhabis at World Youth Day events. If influence is what they wanted, the Saudis certainly aren’t getting value for their dollar at Griffith Uni.