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It has been more than two weeks now since the unfortunate incident of a professor being suspended from his university for giving his academic opinion on the intervention of a hereditary Head of State regarding an inter-religious issue. The university is an international one in status and yet its callous move on the professor speaks volumes about its inability to stay in the global academic radar screen for good reputation and intellectual freedom.

Students and Lecturers protesting against Aziz Bari's suspension

The immediate response by students and the academic staff of the university was one of anger and frustration as they demanded in a demonstration that the professor be reinstated. Earlier on some half-baked politicians had bombarded the professor for his audacity to remark on the hereditary Head’s action. And I am most disappointed with my well-loved ex-PM, Tun Mahathir for labelling the professor as “biadap or kurang ajar” or in English “rude or uncultured”. Much as I respect Tun but I think his remark is uncalled for and rather misplaced and served to encourage simple-minded people to berate the academic.

Remember Tun when you were campaigning against the hereditary rulers’ legal immunity in the mid-eighties? What was that if not “kurang ajar“? Though I also became “kurang ajar” by truly supporting that constitutional amendment’s proposal as I think nobody should be above the law in this country.

Yang Bhg. Prof. Abdul Aziz Bari

Aziz Bari, the Professor in question is known to be neutral politically and being a professor of constitutional law he spoke from his learned mind when he made that comment on the hereditary ruler’s supposed inconsistency in making decision. If Prof Aziz Bari doesn’t make that comment who else would have made it? Certainly not a Chinese or an Indian professor who would be virtually torn to pieces by the mindless fanatics, blind to the core!

It is very important for the sake of the country and our future generation that the people who, by the accident of their birth, are revered blindly in this country, be educated and have legal advisors so that they don’t make remarks/decisions that amplify their bias or inconsistency. We are living in a multi-ethnic country for God’s sake. They should be protecting the interest of every citizen and not only a select group.

If their mistakes are not pointed out, they will continue to keep making them.

Intellectual freedom should be safeguarded and not be selectively grounded. Political interference in intellectual ruminations is a bane in our society. Politicians’ emotional outbursts in their game of political ploy is despicable as they give the impression of guarding the interests of the institutions but are actually playing on the emotion of the electorates. Let’s boot this kind of useless and idiotic politicians out in the next general election!

We need politicians but not the kind who think with their feet and blindly shoot and ask questions later. We also don’t need university administrators reeked with non-professional titles to bow to political pressure rather than using their own judgement. These administrators are traitors to the very institutions of higher learning that they represent. Shame on you the myopic Rector of International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM)!!

I would like to post the press statement by The Malaysian Academic Movement (MOVE)

Media Statement 19th October 2011

The Malaysian Academic Movement (MOVE) would like to draw attention to the recent allegations and undue pressures asserted upon our fellow academic Professor Abdul Aziz Bari.

We are concerned and troubled by the negative remarks and personal attacks towards Prof Abdul Aziz. He is well qualified to make his stand clear over matters within his field of expertise. Threats and personal attack are inappropriate and unprofessional when anyone who disagrees should be engaging him in a rational and professional discourse.

As an academic renowned for his contribution to the academia, Prof Aziz has the right to express his professional views freely and without prejudice as upheld by the notion of academic freedom. The academic freedom is a basic right of every academic, and must be respected and preserved.

The various principles of academic rights and academic freedom are enshrined in a UNESCO document, “Recommendations Concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel”, which was conceded by the UNESCO General Assembly on the 11th of November 1997; among others, Articles 26 and 27 have stated clearly that academics’ freedom involves “the right to contribute to social change through freely expressing their opinion of state policies and of policies affecting higher education”. It further emphasizes that “they should not suffer any penalties simply because of the exercise of such rights”. The recent provocative actions directed towards Prof Aziz show a clear violation of the said articles.

MOVE/GERAK once again invites all concerned to reflect academic fundamental rights and freedom. As we envision Malaysia to be a developed nation, may this nation be not left behind in its fundamentals of upholding the sovereignty of academic institutions and that of academic freedom. Let us be hopeful to shape a country that provides world class education; excellent in all its ways, yet has not sacrificed its soul to get there. All stakeholders must be in compliance with the Recommendation for Malaysia to be a hub for higher education with world class universities.

Circulated on behalf of MOVE by

Rosli H Mahat

Secretary-General

Malaysian Academic Movement (MOVE)

I am encouraged to read the above press statement; at least there is hope for our intellectual freedom. And we need more of Aziz Bari(s) to lead the intellectual movement in Malaysia. We must stop any attempt at rejecting academic opinions and sanctioning differing views.

And threatening Aziz Bari with a bullet in a letter to him is an act of cowardice of a low-down serf! The police should hunt the proverbial bastard down without fear or favour.

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