Sunday, 20 March 2011

The LSE's Sheikh Zayed's Theatre: About Time We Changed The Name?

By Lukas Slothuus

Sheikh Zayed Theatre in The New Academic Building

Children's brains splattered around the pavements of Bahrain have become a worryingly ordinary sight during the last month. But amidst the massacring of pro-democracy protesters, we must ask ourselves: Who are behind this crackdown? Why does it matter for LSE?

Sheikh Zayed 
Behind the crackdown are primarily Bahraini troops but also the Peninsula Shield Force, a joint military cooperation force between the Gulf States. This includes the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that have deployed police officers and soldiers to gun down civilian protesters. The army of the UAE was established by the late Sheikh Zayed, and if that doesn't ring a bell them here we go: Sheikh Zayed was dictator of the UAE until his death in 2004. Apart from sponsoring holocaust-denying conferences and permitting the gross exploitation of workers (particularly from India and Pakistan) who are used as slave-like labour, he also illegalised homosexuality. But the central problem rests with his links to LSE: Accepting a £2.5m donation and LSE thanking for it by naming the most pompous and modern lecture theatre at LSE after him, the Sheikh Zayed Theatre. The links between LSE and the UAE dictatorship are repulsive.

I would like to hear someone tell our Bahraini and Emirati students on campus that Sheikh Zayed was a good guy, and that the reign he left was one of human rights promotion, democracy and equality when his family regime is currently mass-slaughtering innocents in the streets of the capital Manama and beyond. The hypocrisy is immense, and it is no wonder that Harvard University turned down a donation from the very same ruling family and closed their Sheikh Zayed Centre.

It saddens me to enter the New Academic Building on early mornings and see the Sheikh Zayed Theatre in all its glow and glitter when I can read on Al Jazeera that dozens of pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain are gunned down and thousands of others are wounded. Little does it matter that we have a Centre for the Study of Human Rights when we are perpetuating the power structure in the Gulf and Libya by humanising their dictators.

The New Academic Building

There has never been a financial case for taking the donation from Sheikh Zayed. The New Academic Building was fully financed before the donation was offered. If the LSE had any sense of humanity left it would rename the theatre. If not, what can we expect next? The Kim Jong-Il Centre for Free Speech? The Hosni Mubarak Theatre? The Berlusconi Gender Studies Institute? While it is commendable that LSE attracts large donations, there seems to be no limits to the shallowness of LSE's ethical etiquette. If Harvard can shut down their Zayed Centre, we can rename our lecture theatre.


  1. Ha yeah. Utterly Ignorant. Go and find any Emirati student on campus and they will be able to tell you what kind of ruler he was and how much Emirati's adore him for sharing the oil wealth and allowing his country to prosper for his people by giving it a future in something other than oil.

    Anyhoo's failing that, go and read a book!

  2. Ignorant

    Sheikh Zayed is one of a kind, the best leader ever.

  3. Couldn't disagree more. You should understand that the measurements should be relative. He was far more generous, kind and liberal than his counterparts. That's why the people used to adore him. No other UAE based ruler has every enjoyed the popularity he received. I remember this because I was one the thousands who turned up for prayers for him later that week.
    Sure, he may have had his flaws (I'm yet to hear of any confirmed reports), but you need to view things in perspective. By your argument, the founding fathers of USA, or for that matter any pre-slaves abolishment era person could be accused of being evil.
    Kennedy's misguided war efforts in Vietnam doesn't mean that you rename JFK intl.

    Because of the culture one's brought up in, it's very easy to take a negative view of the West and express anger against Israel. But Sheikh Zayed dealt with the issues more rationally than others in the region (even when compared to those in power today).

    He has also contributed millions in other countries for charitable activities.

    The problem is that you, and for that matter many in the Western world are viewing things from a very different angle. The best thing to do would be to stick to the hard facts and draw inferences whilst taking into account the context of the matter.

    I find your lack of diligence disturbing.