UAE award voices ‘regret’ after German philosopher rejects prize

The UAE regrets prominent German philosopher Juergen Habermas’ decision to reject a cultural prize.

The UAE’s Sheikh Zayed Book Award said Monday it regretted prominent German philosopher Juergen Habermas’ decision not to accept its “Cultural Personality of the Year” prize. 

The 91-year-old had reversed an earlier decision to accept the one-million-dirham ($272,000) prize, saying he had been unaware of its links to the government.  

According to a statement sent to Der Spiegel by his publisher, Suhrkamp, Habermas saw his initial acceptance of the award as “the wrong decision which I am now putting right”. 

“I hadn’t informed myself about the close link between the institution that gives these prizes in Abu Dhabi and the political system there,” he added. 

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award, named after the UAE’s founding father, hands out gold medals and cash prizes totalling some $1.9 million each year.

It had declared Habermas “Cultural Personality of the Year” on April 30 “in recognition of a long career that extends for more than half a century”, according to a statement. 

“The Sheikh Zayed Book Award expresses its regret for Mr Jurgen Habermas’ decision to retract his acceptance of the award but respects it,” it said in another statement on Monday.

“The award embodies the values of tolerance, knowledge and creativity while building bridges between cultures, and will continue to fulfil this mission.”

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