The board of directors of a United Arab Emirates high-priced literary prize on Monday regretted that prominent German philosopher Juergen Habermas had turned down the prize, overturning his earlier decision.
The 91-year-old German, considered his country’s most prominent contemporary philosopher, announced earlier this week that he would not accept the Sheikh Zayed Book Prize for his ties “to the existing political system” in the UAE , a country ruled by heredity long criticized. for his suppression of dissent. While describing itself as an “independent” initiative, the award is administered by the Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism Authority.
Mr. Habermas’ influential writings on human rights, morality and democracy, among other topics, have sparked debates in Germany and beyond.
On its website, the board of directors of the literary prize, one of the best-funded in the region, said it “regrets” Habermas’ decision “but respects it”.
The award, he added, “embodies the values of tolerance, knowledge and creativity while building bridges between cultures, and will continue to fulfill this mission.”
Mr. Habermas was named Cultural Personality of the Year, an honor that carries a cash prize of 1 million dirhams.
The award is named after Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first president of the United Arab Emirates when the Federation of Seven Sheikhs became a country in 1971.