Advice on Iranian Nobel laureate to be retracted

The Star, October 24, 2008
PUTRAJAYA: Malaysians may get a chance to listen to the views of Iranian Nobel laureate Dr Shirin Ebadi after all.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim has promised to direct the Wisma Putra officer involved to withdraw his advice on Dr Ebadi’s invitation to the Bridges - Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace forum to be hosted by Universiti Malaya on Nov 3.

“We would like Dr. Ebadi to be invited to the forum.

“Malaysia should allow the freedom of expression and criticisms at the highest level. I will go and investigate this matter,” he said here yesterday.

Dr. Rais was commenting on a statement by UM vice-chancellor Datuk Rafiah Salim that it had decided against inviting Dr. Ebadi, who is the first Muslim woman to be awarded the prestigious prize, after seeking the Foreign Ministry’s advice.

The ministry, in a letter signed by its Middle East and North Africa division secretary Dr. Hasrul Sani Mujtabar, advised UM to withdraw the invitation to “keep close ties between Malaysia and Iran”.

The letter, made available to The Star, said it was not wise to invite Dr Ebadi as the Iranian government viewed her as a critic supporting a “Western agenda”.

Dr. Rais said the advice from the ministry was “not official” and described the decision against inviting Dr Ebadi as “unfortunate”.

“This is definitely done without my involvement. If I had known of it, I would have informed my office against it,” he stressed.

Sisters in Islam (SIS) programme manager Norhayati Kaprawi said it was common for someone to be branded as being sympathetic towards the Western agenda if he or she challenged discriminatory policies and laws.

“SIS has also been accused of such things in the past. It is very rare for a Muslim woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and Malaysia should be proud that she is coming to give her views,” she said.