Businessman from Saudi Arabia gives $3m to NUS

SINGAPORE - A $3 million donation from a businessman from Saudi Arabia will see the National University of Singapore (NUS) promote research into the Arabian peninsula and its links to the rest of Asia.

The gift was made by Mr Muhammad Alagil, chairman of the Saudi Arabia-based Jarir Group, which has businesses in real estate, bookstores and the retail and wholesale trade of products.

One of its stock exchange-listed subsidiaries, Jarir Marketing Company, is worth 14.4 billion Saudi Arabian riyals (S$4.8 billion).

"Arabia and Asia share extensive and deep commercial and cultural connections which may have been forgotten or neglected over the past two centuries," Mr Alagil said in an NUS press statement on Friday.

"I hope the gift will help develop academic expertise in Arabia Asia studies and generate deeper insights into our deeply connected civilisations."

NUS has used the donation to establish the Muhammad Alagil Distinguished Professorship in Arabia Asia Studies in its Asia Research Institute (ARI).

The appointment is a visiting post and NUS said a "leading global scholar" will be selected by April. The professor will spend a few months every year at the institute.

The ARI will also use the funds to research and document the historical and modern links between Arabia and Asia, give lectures and publish papers on the topic and rope in researchers from the Arabian peninsula.

ARI director Prasenjit Duara said more extensive studies are needed in this field. "We are truly grateful that Mr Alagil recognises the value of our work," he said.

The institute was established in 2001 to focus on research on the Asian region. It currently has 35 to 40 full-time researchers and professors, and its research fields include migration and changing family structures.

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