Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Iftar with Anwar Ibrahim

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 11th June, 2018

Anwar Ibrahim and Abdullah FaliqLast night at the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel there was a particularly joyful Iftar dinner in honour of Malaysian politician Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who was released from prison last month after a decade of incarceration, most of it in solitary confinement. As the charges against him were widely seen as fabricated, one might expect him to feel aggrieved against the man who wanted him out of the way, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, but in a dignified speech before breaking the day’s Ramadan fast he said that one had to learn to forgive and forget. Only Dr Ibrahim’s wife and children were allowed to visit him in jail, but he was able to read voraciously, not only political and economic volumes but also religious texts (Islamic and others) and the complete works of William Shakespeare — the latter six times. Two themes were central to Anwar Ibrahim’s remarks last night: inclusivity and good governance. Malaysia has Islam as its official religion, though only slightly over 60 per cent of the total population are Muslims, and he argued that it is important that other groups including Buddhists, Hindus and Christians, as well as the animists of Sabah and Sarawak, should feel they are citizens with the right to play a full part in society. He slammed corruption — often euphemistically referred to as “commission” when the bribes involve high officials or politicians — and said that the challenge of the coming years must be how to make Malaysia and many other countries genuine democracies, where rulers are accountable and there is the rule of law. I asked him whether his vision for his country chimed with Dr Mahathir’s Vision2020, which is essentially about economic and social development, but he said his ideas would comfortably supplement that programme. After recent elections, Dr Mahathir, now aged 92, somewhat unexpectedly returned to power after a period out of office and made Anwar Ibrahim’s wife, Wan Azizah, Deputy Prime Minister (a role Anwar himself had had before his downfall). For me it was a privilege, as a member of the Executive of Liberal International, to work with Wan Azizah during Anwar’s imprisonment, as she campaigned for their common goals, with tenacity and dignity. Soon maybe Anwar Ibrahim himself will be back in government, as it is widely expected that he will succeed Dr Mahathir in the Prime Minister’s office.

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