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I might actually forgive Alfred Nobel for some of his inventions! With a stroke of genius, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee has achieved a lot of objectives, the foremost of which — of course — is the great work that Shirin Ebadi had done under trying conditions.

The picture of an Iranian Muslim female intellectual winning the Nobel Peace Prize is historic as well as influencing future events:

  1. It puts a strong dent in any campaign that the Bush junta may launch to dehumanize Iranians in the way Iraq was dehumanized. In fact, plans for the showdown with Iran may have to be revised. Once you show a vibrant, intelligent, evolving and functioning society, it is hard for imperial ideologues to paint everyone with the ‘terrorist’ brush. Its status as a founding member of the ‘Axis of Evil’ may be in jeopardy.

  2. The fact that Shirin Ebadi is not an exile underlines the necessity that reform and change within Islamic countries will come from within Islam and those countries. Mr. Ebadi has worked tirelessly, enduring prison and enduring opposition, against the excesses of the Iranian government. Instead of launching a tirade against the ayatollahs, she has worked from within, and endured exactly what Gandhi and ML King had to endure.

  3. It blunts one of the most vicious misunderstandings about Islam and women. Women all over the world have been fighting for their rights, and continue to do so — with varied progress — but the labelling of Islam as a doctrinal discriminator of women will get a setback. Ebadi joins Benazir Bhutto, Khalida Zia, Hasina Wajed, Megawati Sukarnoputri and Tansu Ciller, among many other Muslim female intellectuals, elected leaders and politicians.

  4. It encourages Muslim intellectuals to find solutions from within. It is easy to just follow the East or the West, but it takes real hard work to think up new strategies in the middle. Composed of many countries, languages and ethnicities, the Islamic World is a reality, just as the European Union is a reality and ASEAN is a reality. The future Kants, Hobbes’ and Smiths’ of the Orient will get a boost.

  5. It puts pressure on hardline clerics in power to wake up to the changing world, and recognize progressive intellectuals as partners, and not as subversives.

  6. It acknowledges the source of Shirin Ebadi’s inspiration as a source of peace.

  7. You may not agree, it passes the baton of peace to the Islamic World in the 21st Century. All the slogans of the Bush junta to promote world peace have beeen summarily rejected.

The Nobel Peace Prize Commitee deserves the Nobel Peace Prize!