She is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a beacon of saintly integrity in the West who remained under house arrest for 15 years in her native Burma.
However, there is another side to Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi that sits at odds with her iconic image.
After the BBC Today presenter Mishal Husain gave Suu Kyi a rough ride during a BBC interview, Suu Kyi lost her composure and was heard to mutter angrily off-air: ‘No one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim.’
The spat between the two prominent and famously elegant Asian women has only just emerged, and followed a heated interview with the 70-year-old president of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy on the Today programme, according to a new book, The Lady And The Generals: Aung San Suu Kyi And Burma’s Struggle For Freedom, by Peter Popham.
Suu Kyi’s equivocal attitude towards the violence suffered by Burma’s Muslim minority has alarmed even her most dedicated fans.
When she was repeatedly asked by Husain to condemn anti-Islamic sentiment and the wave of mob-led massacres of Muslims in Myanmar, she declined to do so. ‘I think there are many, many Buddhists who have also left the country for various reasons,’ she replied. ‘This is a result of our sufferings under a dictatorial regime.’
Much of the country’s huge Buddhist majority dislikes its small Muslim community with a passion, so it is thought Suu Kyi did not want to alienate her supporters.
Muslims are only 4 per cent of Burma’s population. The Rohingya Muslims, who have borne the brunt of the violence, are a smaller minority still. The Rohingya are explicitly forbidden from becoming citizens of Burma and have no political weight whatsoever.
Husain, 43, was the first Muslim presenter of Radio 4’s Today programme.
But while often seen as a symbol of the BBC’s commitment to diversity, she is, herself, thumpingly posh.
The mother-of-three and Northampton-born daughter of Pakistani parents was educated at private school and Cambridge University, where she read law.