The Templeton Prize for progress in religion was awarded this week to Muslim Inamullah Khan, but Jewish leaders protested the recognition, saying that he heads an anti-Israel and anti-Semitic organization.
Khan is the first member of the Islamic faith to win the $390,000 prize, the largest in the world and about $40,000 more than the Nobel prizes.
"My life has been spent in the service of mankind seeking peace where there is war, reconciliation where there is conflict, harmony where there is discord," Khan said when the prize was announced in New York Wednesday.
"I do this from my religious conviction and will continue to work with people of different races and religions and with those of different views within the same religion," he said.
Khan was cited for his "tireless work as coordinator for peace be tween Muslims, Christians and Jews."
But spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith and for the American Jewish Committee said that the World Muslim Congress, which Khan helped found and which he serves as secretary general, has been actively involved in anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda.
The Muslim Congress' president, Marif al-Dawalibi of Saudi Arabia, said in a 1984 speech that Jewish teaching required Jews "to drink every year the blood of a non-Jewish man," said Irwin Suall, fact-finding director of the anti-defamation league.
The organization has also sent packets to members of the British Parliament and U.S. Senate including books that questioned whether 6 million European Jews were killed by Nazi Germany during World War II, Suall said. He said the books were authored by William Grimstad, a former editor of an American Nazi Party publication.
"Khan is not so much in the forefront as Dawalibi, but it's inconceivable to me that any decent person of good will who is informed of the activities of this organization would endorse the award," he said.
Rabbi James A. Rudin, national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee, said he was "shocked and appalled" at the award, "and also outraged that the prize should be given to a man who clearly has not been an agent of reconciliation."
Suall and Rudin both said their organizations sent protests to representatives of the Templeton Prize but that they had not received any response as of Friday.
Khan, born in Burma of Indian parentage, was editor of Burma's Muslim Daily until 1942, when Burma was occupied by Japan. He then moved to India, settling in Karachi when Pakistan was established in 1948.
There, he was a founder of the World Muslim Congress, with its offices initially in his home.