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Muslims in Malaysia, not unlike those in the Middle East, have resorted to appreciating Islam through the narrow prism of al Halal wal Haram fil Islam - which means abiding by the "lawful and prohibited acts in Islam", and which is detailed in a book of the same name by Yusuf Qaradawi.
In this philosophy, submission to God is reduced to a series of dos and don'ts - a binary moral code. This approach was systematized by Qaradawi, dean of Islamic law at Qatar University, and the methodology gained currency in the Middle East, and subsequently in Southeast Asia.

Since 1960, when Qaradawi wrote his book in Arabic, his narrow approach toward Islam has predominated. In Malaysia, his influence is deep, even among the governing Muslim elites. When former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim was the president of the International Islamic University, Malaysia, he spent considerable time with Qaradawi, expressing his support for the latter's fiqh al aliyyah (introducing Islamic law according to priorities).

In his governmental post of deputy to prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, Anwar was able to bring some of Qaradawi's ideas into public policy. Eventually Anwar was dumped from the government and jailed on charges of sodomy and corruption; however, the thoughts and practice of Qaradawi have not been totally excluded from government policy, including the reductionist elements.

Islamic scholars and thinkers in Malaysia continue to look to Qaradawi for various Islamic interpretations and verdicts, such as on the legality of suicide terrorism. More important, the inspiration of Qaradawi is integral to the conceptual blueprint for an Islamic state as held by the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), which controls the Kelantan state government.

PAS's Islamic state is based on the permissible and the prohibited as outlined by Qaradawi. Observe the "Islamic state document" produced by PAS last year, the first of its kind in the history of the party, after much demand from Malaysians as to what a PAS-style Islamic state would actually represent.

In this document, it was clearly stated that PAS would implement "the Shariah [Islamic law] to achieve the five imperatives of the Shariah; therein to protect a Muslim's beliefs, life, intellect, dignity and property".

In seeking to fulfill these five imperatives, the document read: "In implementing the Shariah all vices and crimes that pertain to the above stated aspects would be controlled. Man-made laws have been [proved] a failure in securing the security and dignity of the human race." -

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today charged that the Umno-led Barisan Nasional are showing signs of desperation by using the police to intimidate Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders. Anwar claimed that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife are behind the campaign of police harassment against PR. “I sense this continued harassment by the police by the behest of the political masters and clearly under the administration of Datuk Seri Najib and Rosmah. There is this intimidation using the police. I had to deal with three police reports filed by the police themselves and one by a so called concerned citizen,” he told reporters here.

The four police reports were lodged on the 16, 17, 22 and 27 of February. Anwar said that Umno were using scare tactics to stop the democratic process in the country. “We strongly resent and protest this continued intimidation by the police force. We also strongly protest how the police is used by Umno leadership of Datuk Seri Najib and Rosmah to hinder the process of democracy in the country. If this is the way to scare us then I would like to guarantee on behalf of Pakatan Rakyat that it does not even bother us a bit

“When authoritarian leaders sense that there is a demand for change and sentiments against their oppressive policies, they normally resort to punitive and oppressive measures,” he said. Anwar gave a statement to the police today — joining the list of Pakatan Rakyat leaders who have been asked to meet the police over their recent public speeches at four gatherings. Three uniformed and two plain clothed police officers arrived from Penang to interrogate Anwar at party headquarters at noon. The interrogators from Timur Laut were led by ASP Mohd Syukry Moh Ali.

Anwar confirmed that he is currently being investigated for unlawful assembly, sedition and criminal defamation. At these gatherings Anwar spoke about the legislature’s and judiciary’s loss of credibility, the lost jet engines, the death of the Mongolian model, the second sodomy trial and developments in ‘Allah’ controversy. “What is this? What is the purpose? Why is there apparently mention of the Altantuya murder, mention commission of corruption regarding the procurement of two submarines and there is mention of the jet engines and sodomy trial. Why is this a case of concern by the police? Unless there is of course rioting and disturbances. These are peaceful assemblies, many of them with permits and some of them are just tea parties,” he said.

So far those questioned have been Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, R. Sivarasa and Salahuddin Ayub. The latter two being vice-presidents of PKR and PAS respectively. Sivarasa and Salahuddin have had their statements taken following accusations that they made seditious statements at a public rally in Penang early last month. Salahuddin disclosed that the police inquired about portions of his speech which touched on ‘Allah’ but the Kubang Kerian MP refused to answer their questions. Sivarasa, also the Subang MP, was asked about his comments on Anwar’s sodomy trial which is ongoing.

Anwar also urged the police to be independent when exercising their duty. “Our advice to the police is focus on the problem and security. Don’t be servants of the Umno corrupt leaders. Let political leaders collide at the Parliament and don’t be used by political leaders and concentrate on the problem of increasing crime,” he said.

Exclusive The last time Malaysiakini sat down for a chat with Anwar Ibrahim, he was the man of the hour. Fresh from a string of victories in the 2008 general election, he was then about to leave for Permatang Pauh to make his political comeback. A year and a half later, however, his Pakatan Rakyat coalition is on the defensive. There is a new and more robust prime minister in charge. Pakatan lost Perak after BN engineered a number of defections. Anwar Ibrahim himself is facing another controversial sodomy trial. But being an incorrigible optimist, he remains upbeat.

In this first of a four-part interview, he tells Malaysiakini about his battle to clear his reputation in a second sodomy charge leveled against him, which he concedes is a liability in the battle for Malay votes. But unlike the Sodomy I trial 10 years ago, Anwar is confident of staying out of prison despite all the “dirty machinations” by BN. He also said that, although Najib is a stronger opponent than his predecessor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Pak Lah), he does not hold a candle to his other adversary, Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“Mahathir’s strength is that he fights things head on. Najib is never known to have the capacity to face up to things,” he explained. Anwar said that Najib’s tactics of using Umno mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia and institutions such as the judiciary to smear him is a sign of “cowardice” and “sheer hypocrisy”. “I know their personal lives, I was their friend…. Who is talking about morality here? In Islam – be it sodomy, adultery, drinking or corruption – who can pass the test? Name one person. Can Najib pass the test?” he asked. Excerpts of the interview follow. The content has been edited for language and brevity. ~Malaysiakini

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