The early history
Formerly known as Malaysian Sociological Research Institute, Malaysian Social Research Institute (MSRI) was inaugurated on 27 November 1959. The organisation was founded and chaired by the late Dato’ Dr. Alijah (Shirle) Gordon – an American student studying Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Columbia University. Prior to her move to Malaya in 1957, the feisty student at that time was known to have taken on Abba Eban, the future Foreign Minister of Israel, in a televised debate about the fate of the Palestinians and the military aggression of Israel and its Zionist elite; which led her to lose her promised scholarship. However, Dato’ D.r Alijah succeeded in securing a scholarship from the Egyptian government.
The purpose of the institute at that time was to produce and publish world-class academic scholarships. The people involved with MSRI then – Pendita Za’aba, Dr. Ishak Muhammad (Pak Sako) to name but a few – were at the forefront of progressive Malaysian writing, and MSRI’s journal Intisari was one of the first research journals dedicated to the idea of “leaving the walled-in and secure yesterday to analyse today and the forces that mould our society”, published for an educated general readership.
Many in Malaya back then felt that Islam has had a pervasive influence, but little or nothing has been published on the subject. Pendita Za’aba was the first Chairman of this research group that literally survived on its members’ own pocket money and what little funds they managed to solicit from the public to support the work.
Since its inception, MSRI has been responsible for publishing research work of intellectuals. All the books published by MSRI, as part of our moral obligations, were donated to secondary schools all over Malaysia.
MSRI Sponsorship Programme
In 1988, during the civil war in Lebanon, the then Chairman of MSRI, Dato’ Dr. Alijah Gordon was horrified by the thought that Palestinian refugees were forced to ask for a ‘fatwa’ to eat the flesh of their dead. The news prodded her to organise a team of medical volunteers, medicines, food and clothing to be channelled ro these beleaguered people. It was through these volunteers that the MSRI / Sponsorship Programme of Palestinian Children was born as there were too many children left homeless and orphaned.
This Government-created Trust Fund was established in 1989 and MSRI became one of its Trustees. Other Trustees included the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Welfare Department under the Ministry of National Unity and Social Development. MSRI continued its effort in providing humanitarian support for the downtrodden, especially for the Palestininian refugees in Lebanon. With the help of caring Malaysians, MSRI’s programmes will continue to make a difference in the lives of some of the most unfortunate people in the world.