By Debra Chong
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 2 – Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s (pic) many recent visits abroad appears to have paid off – the 62-year-old ranked No. 32 in the inaugural list of top thinkers that mattered most this year in the latest issue of the influential Foreign Policy magazine in the United States.
The Quran-quoting PKR adviser was among only 10 Asians on the list and is cited by the magazine for “challenging the Muslim world to embrace democracy.”
Other prominent Asians include India’s Rajendra Pachauri, ranked No. 5 for championing climate change; China’s central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan (No. 9) who proposed to revamp the world finance system from relying on the US dollar; and Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi (No. 26) who was held up as a “living symbol of hope in a dark place” under Myanmar’s military rule.
In its December issue, the magazine published excerpts of its interview with the Malaysian former deputy prime minister, touching on criticism that he is an “opportunistic politician”, his six years in jail and his view promoting religious tolerance.
“You can’t just erase a period of imperialism and colonialism. You can’t erase the fault lines, the bad policies, the failed policies, the war in Iraq, and support for dictators. That, to me, is the reality,” the magazine quoted Anwar in response to a question on Muslim nations and the West.
“But what is the problem? When you … apportion the blame only to the West or the United States. They want to deflect from the issue of repression, endemic corruption, and destruction of the institutions of governance,” Anwar added.
The top three thinkers in the world, according to Foreign Policy are, in order: Ben Bernanke, US Federal Reserve chief “for staving off a new Great Depression”; US president Barack Obama “for reimagining America’s role in the world”; and political scientist Zahra Rahnavard for spearheading “Iran’s Green Revolution” against the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who controversially won a second term in the presidential elections earlier this year.
Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Member of Parliament and De Facto Leader, Parti KeADILan Rakyat is ranked 32nd on the list of the 100 minds that mattered most in the year 2009 (http://www.foreignpolicy.c
We must congratulate Anwar for being chosen to be one of the 100 thinkers by Foreign Policy. I wonder where are Mahathir, Badawi and Najib Tun Razak on this list. Yeah, you got it right. They are not listed because they made no impact on world affairs, despite all their pronouncements at home (Vision 2020 and Malaysia Incorporated, Islam Hadhari, and 1Malaysia) which were hyped by the New Straits Times, The Star, Utusan Malaysia and the Television networks at home.
The world understands and heeds Anwar’s clarion call for Freedom, Democracy, Justice and Good Governance. We at home tend to be taken in by UMNO’s propaganda that seeks to demonise one of our illustrious sons,(others being Dato Jaafar Onn, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, Tun Abdul Razak bin Hussein, Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman , Tun V.T. Sambanthan, Tun Tan Siew Sin, Dr. Tan Chee Koon, and Tun Hussein Onn) as a traitor to the nation and his own race.–Din Merican
Opposition leader | People’s Justice Party (Parti KeADILan Rakyat) | Malaysia
Two decades ago, it would have been impossible to imagine Anwar pulling together rural Malays, ethnic Indians and Chinese, and Islamists into a coherent political bloc. Back then, Anwar was deputy prime minister in a de facto single-party state that espoused preferential treatment for ethnic Malays. It was a policy that Anwar had pushed from his days as a youth leader right up until 1997, when he denounced his patron, then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, for corruption. He would spend the next six years in solitary confinement on trumped-up charges for that political betrayal.
And he would leave jail in 2004 with a bold message for change in a country now at the forefront of the struggle for democracy in the Muslim world. Today, Anwar’s political career is blossoming, despite a new, politically motivated indictment. Abroad, he has become an outspoken advocate of religious tolerance.
He sat down with Foreign Policy to talk about his big ideas:
On Muslim countries and the West: You can’t just erase a period of imperialism and colonialism. You can’t erase the fault lines, the bad policies, the failed policies, the war in Iraq, and support for dictators. That to me is the reality. But what is the problem? When you … apportion the blame only to the West or the United States. They want to deflect from the issue of repression, endemic corruption, and destruction of the institutions of governance.
On his time in prison: I spent a lot of time reading. I decided to focus on the great works and the classics. Friends from around the world were sending books, but it takes months for [the prison] to vet them. There came a book on the Green Revolution at that time. The officer said, “Anything revolution — out!” even though it was about agriculture. But the books kept coming. The officers were not even graduates, and [the books] were in English. They would say, “Anwar, out of 10 books, can you send back one?” So I would select something I had already read or something I was not interested in and say, “We should reject this.”
On politics: Of course, you simplify the arguments [for politics], but the central thesis remains constant. People say, “Anwar, you are opportunistic. How can you talk about Islam and the Quran here, and then you talk about Shakespeare and quote Jefferson or Edmund Burke?” I say, it depends on the audience. You can’t talk about Edmund Burke in some remote village in Afghanistan. Then you go to Kuala Lumpur and you quote T.S. Eliot. If I quote the Quran all the time to a group of lawyers, [they will think] I am a mullah from somewhere!