The prominent German philosopher and sociologist, Jurgen Habermas, has apologized for accepting the Sheikh Zayed Book Prize, which is worth nearly a quarter of a million euros (272,000 dollars) and is offered by the United Arab Emirates.
The official website of the award announced that Habermas was awarded the title “Cultural Personality of the Year 2021, in recognition of a long career spanning more than half a century.”
Habermas (91 years) is considered one of the most prominent living German philosophers since the second half of the twentieth century. He is known for his association with the theoretical legacy of what is known as the Frankfurt School and its critical thinking in social theory. And he has a special theory known as the communicative action theory.
His books in the fields of philosophy and social theory numbered more than fifty, and he was described by the Stanford Philosophical Encyclopedia as one of the most influential philosophers in the world. He has translated many of his books and theoretical contributions into Arabic.
In a brief statement, transmitted by the German website “Spiegel” on the authority of its publisher, Habermas expressed his apology for accepting the award and promised his previous decision to accept it “wrongly.”
What are the reasons for this retraction from accepting the award and what are its circumstances?
According to reports that quoted the news of the German philosopher’s retreat from the award: It came as a result of his concerns about the human rights file in the UAE and the whole Gulf region.
On Sunday evening, Spiegel Online published the news that Habermas refused to accept the Sheikh Zayed Prize, saying that with this decision, “the philosopher remains faithful to the values of his enlightenment thought.”
“I announced my readiness to accept the Sheikh Zayed Book Award for this year. This was a wrong decision, and I am correcting it according to this retraction,” Habermas said, according to what the site quoted from the publisher of his books.
Habermas added, “It was not clear enough to me the very close connection between the institution that awards these prizes in Abu Dhabi and the political system that exists there.”
Spiegel had previously published a critical article in which it reviewed what it described as human rights violations in the UAE, based on the classification of the “Freedom House” research center in Washington.
The article quoted the American Center as categorizing the UAE as a “not free” country due to the existence of many significant restrictions on civil liberties in it.
The site reported that the regime in the UAE is constantly criticized for its poor record in the field of human rights conditions. And that the country’s rulers tightly control the media, and exercise wide discretionary powers to punish individuals who criticize the government.
He also referred to other human rights concerns, including the exploitation of foreign workers coming from India and other countries, by using what is known as the sponsorship system.
What is the Sheikh Zayed Book Award?
The official website of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award announced on April 30 that Habermas had been named “Cultural Personality of the Year 2021, in recognition of a long career spanning more than half a century.”
However, the site returned and published a statement after the news of Habermass apology spread, expressing the regret of those in charge of the award for retracting “his pre-acceptance of the award,” adding that the award “respects his decision.” According to the text of the statement.
A number of prizes are awarded in different categories under the name “Sheikh Zayed Book Award”, which came to commemorate the name of the late former ruler of the Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
This award was established with the support and patronage of the “Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi”, and the total value of it is seven million dirhams, equivalent to 1.9 million dollars, which are distributed over a number of awards annually.
Each winner in one of the award’s branches gets 750,000 Emirati dirhams (a little more than $ 200,000) as well as a gold medal.
As for the winner of the Personality of the Year award, he will be awarded one million dirhams (about 272 thousand dollars) and a gold medal.
The award describes itself, according to its official website, as “an independent award, given every year to cultural makers, thinkers, creators, publishers, and youth for their contributions in the fields of development, authorship, and translation in the human sciences that have a clear impact on enriching cultural, literary and social life.” And that is according to scientific and objective criteria. ”
The “Cultural Personality of the Year” award is given to a prominent legal or natural person, at the Arab or international level, with his clear contribution to enriching Arab culture creativity or thought, provided that her works or activities embody the values of originality, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence. ” the prize.