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Criticised for voicing liberal views in the West while flirting with orthodox Islam at home, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has said there should be no reason for a contradiction between democracy and Islam. “The vast majority of Muslims are under democratic rule... or are opting for democracy, as in Egypt,” the man vying to be prime minister told Financial Times (FT) in an interview published yesterday. The influential international daily noted that the former deputy prime minister has drawn scepticism, even from admirers, that he can lead his fractious three-party Pakatan Rakyat (PR) to victory in the next general election or deliver his promises of a reformed government. But the opposition leader told the newspaper he was confident that Muslim-majority Malaysians were inspired by the wave of changes that have swept the Arab world and embracing what he described as a new wave of Muslim democracies.

He said that old leaders such as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, ousted Arab despots and by implication Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak are out of touch with that new wave. The 64-year-old said he aspired to be a leader like Turkey’s prime minister of eight years, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom Anwar said had shared similar hopes for an Islamic democracy. He added that they had discussed the wider opportunity presented by the Arab uprisings. “I talk about the Malaysian Spring, but our route will be elections,” Anwar told FT, adding that it was going to happen “very soon”. The PKR adviser told the newspaper he was focused on improving the country’s economy based on American philosopher John Rawls’ model — based on treating everyone impartially equal — should he win in national polls widely believed will be called this year.

Anwar said that while PR partner PAS would from time to time object to Elton John and sexy Beyonce concerts in Malaysia, all three component members agreed on the need for basic and freedoms. He added that his position as a Muslim acted as a lynchpin for the disparate pact: “If it was some non-Muslim, they’d think that I was a bit wishy-washy and easy, but, no, I’m a Muslim. People ask, ‘Do you believe in the Quran?’ and I can say ‘Yes’.” But Anwar was reluctant to state his stand on enforcing hudud, the controversial Islamic law that advocate corporal punishment and which has persistently been a bone of contention between the secular DAP and the Islamist PAS. Anwar admitted to FT that it was “one of the more difficult issues I have to deal with” but refused to rule out its introduction in multiracial, multireligious Malaysia. “We must reach a consensus, which is not possible in the foreseeable future, but what if you’re given a situation where all Malaysians agree? Who am I to say no?” he told the paper.


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