PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has lined up a three-prong strategy to counter the rise of Malay-Islamist supremacist rhetoric in Malaysia.
In a rare interview with the TIME magazine, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman said the first measure is to focus on creating an equitable system so that no community or part of the country is seen to be ignored or marginalised.
“Second, of course, is education because extremism, racism and religious bigotry breed easily among the more ignorant segment of the population,” he told Hong Kong-based journalist Debasish Roy Chowdhury in a recent article entitled “Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is on a Mission to Save Malaysia’s Democracy”.
“When I say ignorant, I don’t mean you’re not qualified, you don’t go to university. I mean the lack of understanding of the total message of a religion dependent on some of the mullahs and sheiks with their very narrow, obscure interpretation.”
Thirdly, Anwar who is nearing his 11-month in office after having been a PM-in-waiting for almost 24 years, emphasised the need to make radical Malays/Muslims realise that although Malaysia is a predominately Muslim country, it boasts a multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious society.
“And we have survived hundreds of years with the presence of Buddhists, Hindus and Christians. There is no reason why you should upset this and cause enmity.”
To a trickier question by Chowdhury if he has ever considered asking PAS to come on board given his administration is one of a coalition government, the PKR president and father of the reformasi movement responded:
“On whether we are prepared to engage with them, of course we do. We must. And I’ve sent (an invitation) to them … Yes, I have been open to the idea from the beginning.
“After all, this is a unity government and we do what is best for our country. But of course, we are going to draw a line. Islam is the religion of the Federation but this is a multi-religious country and I want every single citizen in this country – of all religious persuasions – to know that they have a place in this country.”
However, Anwar said response from the Islamist party which won the most number of parliamentary seats as a single party during the 15th General Election (GE15) on Nov 19 last year with 49 has been lukewarm thus far.
“There has not been a clear rejection nor a positive response. The political climate is still a bit heated, so we’ll let it cool off for some time.”
As to what he expects to achieve from his reformist ideals, the Tambun MP said matters pertaining to governance will be his top priority.
“… in this country, the plundering was a mess and corruption is systemic. And if you stop that, it is a major success story. Not a single tender in the past nine months has been awarded through a negotiated process.
“There is (now) a proper tender, a transparent system. This is a major departure from the corrupt practices of the past. In Parliament, we have formed umpteen select committees. They can summon ministers and civil servants, question them. In the judiciary, there is not one case of appointments or decisions that I’ve interfered with.” – Oct 12, 2023
Main pic credit: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Facebook