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RM12 Mln M'sian Carvings Adorn Oxford Centre

From Syed Azwan Syed Ali

OXFORD, May 17 (Bernama) -- Malaysian carvings from Merbau timber worth RM12 million will adorn the auditorium of the new Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (OCIS) currently being built at Marston Road here.

Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said a craftsman from Besut, Terengganu, Norhaiza Nordin, would be assigned to complete the project by August next year according to the concept and design agreed upon by experts from Malaysia and Oxford University.

"It is a recognition to Malaysia. All the carvings will have Malaysian and Islamic motifs," he told Malaysian journalists after meeting OCIS officials at their old building at George Street here Wednesday.

Present were Malaysian Handicraft Corporation Director-General Datuk Zakiah Ahmad, OCIS Director Dr Farhan Ahmad Nizami and chief architect for the project, Prof Abdul Wahed El-Wakil.

Dr Rais is here for the Malaysian Week Expo 2006 in London which begins Wednesday.

He said the carvings were the Malaysian government's contribution to the centre. The government also paid the cost of building the auditorium.

The new OCIS building would be a symbol of tolerance between the Islamic world and the West, he said.

He said a sub-committee jointly chaired by his ministry's Secretary-General Datuk Seri Azizah Abod and an OCIS representative would monitor the project.

Farhan said the auditorium with a capacity to accommodate 200 people was a symbol of bilateral cooperation between the Malaysian government and the OCIS.

He said the cooperation was welcomed as Malaysia was the Organisation of Islamic Conference Chair and an exemplary, modern and moderate Islamic nation.

"I hope this building will serve as a bridge to have more Malaysians working at the centre. The centre will reflect the best of Malaysian arts," he said.

Farhan said Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former South African President Nelson Mandela were among the leaders who have delivered lectures at the OCIS.

Besides the auditorium, the new OCIS premises, covering 12,000 sq ft, will also have a mosque, dining room, lecture hall, gallery and accommodation for 70 people.

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