The Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion was awarded without fanfare last month to Pakistani scholar Inamullah Khan--a ceremony that London newspapers say was hushed up following complaints by Jewish groups.
However, an Australian government official this week denied that there was any controversy. The official, who refused to be identified by name in accordance with government custom, said: “By no means was it hushed up and there has not been any controversy as far as we know.”
Jewish groups objected when Khan was announced in March as the winner of the $385,000 prize, saying that he was linked with anti-Semitic groups. Sir John Templeton, an American-born financier living in the Bahamas, established the prize in 1982 as a religious counterpart to the Nobel prizes.
Khan, secretary general of the World Muslim Congress, received the award Sept. 28 at Government House in Melbourne from Gov. Gen. Davies McCaughy. The Sunday Times of London said the ceremony was hushed up.
First Muslin to Win
“The award is usually made at Buckingham House by Prince Philip. Why it was given in Melbourne I don’t know, perhaps because Khan was here,” the Government House official said. He said McCaughy will be on the panel of judges for the prize next year.
Khan is the first Muslim to win the award, which has been presented 15 times, and he was praised by the Templeton officers for promoting interreligious cooperation. His supporters have said that his organization had been more willing than other Islamic groups to maintain contacts with Jews.
In April, it was reported that prize officers had delayed the presentation, scheduled for May 10 in London, pending an investigation. The probe was to center on complaints by the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith that Khan and his organization had fostered anti-Semitism in recent years.
(In a cable sent to Templeton this week, the ADL expressed “outrage” that the prize had in fact been given to Khan. Abraham H. Foxman, ADL’s national director, said the league found it “shocking . . . in light of the anti-Jewish bigotry displayed by the World Muslim Congress during Mr. Khan’s tenure as secretary-general.”)
Khan has said he had a difference with Zionists “because the U.N. General Assembly has declared Zionism a racist creed.” But he said, “I can never support anti-Semitic feelings because I am myself a descendant of Semitic ancestors from the Middle East.”
List of Judges
Among the judges this year were Robin Lee Pemberton, governor of the Bank of England; Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe of Britain; Foreign Minister Clement Maynard of the Bahamas; Catholic Archbishop Marcos McGrath of Panama, and K. Shankar Bajpai, a former Indian ambassador to the Hague, Istanbul, Beijing and Washington.
The Government House official said none of the judges were present at the ceremony in Melbourne.
Past recipients of the prize include Mother Teresa, the Rev. Billy Graham and Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn.