Scholars at Risk calls for letters on behalf of Professor Aziz Bari of Malaysia

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    Scholars at Risk calls for letters on behalf of Professor Aziz Bari of Malaysia
    Date: October 28, 2011

    Scholars at Risk is gravely concerned over reports that Professor Aziz Bari, a scholar of constitutional law, is under investigation for exercising his right to free expression. SAR asks for letters, faxes and emails urging the appropriate authorities to intervene in support of Professor Aziz, to seek an investigation of the apparent abuse of Professor Aziz's rights and to direct that a full, public report on the incident be made available as speedily as practical.

    Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of over 260 universities and colleges in 33 countries dedicated to promoting academic freedom and its constituent freedoms of thought, opinion, expression, association and travel.  In cases like that of Professor Aziz involving alleged infringement of these freedoms Scholars at Risk intervenes hoping to clarify and resolve matters favorably.

    Professor Aziz is a professor of law at International Islamic University of Malaysia and an expert on Malaysian constitutional law.  According to reports SAR has received, on October 12, 2011 Professor Aziz published a comment on a public website regarding a decree issued by the Sultan of Selangor.  (Although it is not relevant to the issue of a professor’s right to make public comments, the comment in question essentially stated that the Sedition Act of 1948 does not criminalize an individual for comments made against a sultan.)  Following the publication, Professor Aziz was suspended from the university on October 20 and a police investigation was launched. Although media reports suggest that Professor Aziz’s suspension was lifted on October 25, SAR understands that he remains under investigation.  Scholars at Risk invites any additional or contrary information authorities might share which will help SAR to understand the situation more fully.  Absent this, the facts as described suggest a clear violation of academic freedom and free expression, in the form of an obvious retaliation against a scholar for nonviolent, professional expression which is guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and numerous subsequent international instruments. 

    Accordingly SAR is concerned that the suspension and investigation of Professor Aziz in apparent retaliation for critical commentary suggest an attempt to chill intellectual inquiry and debate; specifically to deter scholars and others from commenting on public and social issues in Malaysia. SAR finds this suggestion deeply troubling. 

    Free and safe exchange of information and ideas is recognized as an essential component of higher education and scholarship.  We fear for Professor Aziz and other individual scholars who may suffer similar harassment or intimidation.  SAR fears also that the quality and reputation of Malaysian higher education could be seriously undermined by incidents such as this which suggest that academic freedom and free expression are not vigorously protected in Malaysia. 

    Scholars at Risk therefore joins with other national and international academic associations, scholarly societies, human rights organizations and individuals in respectfully urging Malaysian authorities' intervention in support of Professor Aziz.  We urge authorities to seek an investigation of the apparent abuse of Professor Aziz’s rights.  We also urge authorities to direct that a full, public report on the incident be made available as speedily as practical, both to put this unfortunate incident in the past and as a firm and clear demonstration of Malaysia’s commitment to academic freedom, free inquiry and expression as fundamental to quality higher education and as essential elements of free, stable and prosperous societies. 

    Scholars at Risk invites letters, emails and faxes be sent:

    -respectfully urging authorities' intervention in support of Professor Aziz;

    -respectfully urging authorities to seek an investigation of the apparent abuse of Professor Aziz's rights; and

    -respectfully urging authorities to direct that a full, public report on the incident be made available as speedily as practical.


    PLEASE WRITE TO:

    The Honorable Dato' Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak
    Prime Minister of Malaysia
    Office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia
    Main Block, Perdana Putra Building
    Federal Government Administrative Centre
    62502 Putrajaya, Malaysia
    Fax: +603 8888 3444
    Email: ppm@pmo.gov.my

    COPIES TO:

    The Honorable Dr. Hou Kok Chung Saifuddin Abdullah
    Deputy Minister of Higher Education
    Department of Higher Education
    Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia
    Level 1-3, Block E9, Parcel E, Precinct 1
    Federal Government Administrative Centre
    62505 Putrajaya, Malaysia
    Fax: +603 8889 4119
    Email: edumalaysia@mohe.gov.my

    Y. Bhg. Tan Sri Mohd. Sidek Bin Hj. Hassan
    Chairman of Board of Governors and President
    International Islamic University Malaysia
    P.O. Box 10
    50728 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    Fax: +603 6196 4053

     

    Scholars at Risk
    New York University
    194 Mercer St., 4th floor
    New York, NY 10012  USA
    Fax: +1 212 995-4402
    scholarsatrisk@nyu.edu

    To view a model letter of appeal, as well as a copy of SAR's letter, please visit: http://scholarsatrisk.nyu.edu/Education-Advocacy/Alerts-Scholars-in-Prison.php.