On March 30, 2023, officials at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Shah Alam canceled an event featuring Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, the president of the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda). Rahman was also barred from entering campus
Mahasiswa Demokratik, Muda’s student affiliate group, organized the event, entitled “Interns are Not Forced Labor.” The event was conceived as a forum for facilitating peaceful dialogue between students and panelists, according to Rahman. UiTM officials stated that they canceled the event in order to maintain campus harmony during the month of Ramandan. The university administration agreed to reschedule the event for after the end of Ramadan if the event organizers invited additional panelists that would contribute to a more “balanced” discussion.
After Mahasiswa Demokratik stated that they would go forward with the event on March 30 as planned, Rahman reported being barred from entering the UiTM Shah Alam campus during the day of the event. Mahasiswa Demokratik also shared text messages from the university stating that campus gates would be closed that night due to an “unavoidable technical issue,” with access to the campus allowed only through the main gate. The Minister of Higher Education later responded saying that Rahman’s inability to enter campus must have been the result of a communication breakdown.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the cancellation of an academic event and actions taken in apparent attempt to prevent Rahman from entering the UiTM Shah Alam campus. State and higher education officials should protect academic freedom and take all available steps to ensure the exercise of academic freedom, including on-campus, academic events. Cancellations of and efforts to prevent academic events undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.