Anwar invokes true meaning of sharia law

This interview with controversial Malaysian Opposition Leader, Anwar Ibrahim, continues the series recorded for Eureka Street at the Parliament of the World's Religions held in Melbourne at the beginning of December 2009.

He speaks about the urgency of interreligious dialogue, how to deal with religious and cultural pluralism, the need for frank discussion and debate amongst Muslims, and the true meaning of sharia, of Islamic law. (Continues below)

The recent spate of fire-bombings of Christian churches in Malaysia highlights the need to promote dialogue and understanding between religious groups. In a recent press statement, Anwar denounced the actions of militant Muslims, saying he was 'outraged by the tragic attacks on our Christian brothers and sisters'.

He reminded Muslims of the teaching in the 29th Chapter of the Quran: 'And dispute not with the People of the Book but say, 'We believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and that which came down to you ... our God and your God is one'.'

62 year old Anwar showed leadership from an early age. At university, he was president of the Muslim students' organisation. After graduating he was one of the founders, and the second president, of a leading Islamic youth organisation called Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia.

In 1982 the charismatic Anwar entered politics, and was taken under the wing of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. He rose rapidly through the ranks, and held several ministries before becoming Deputy Prime Minister in 1993. But tensions grew between him and Mahathir as Anwar spoke out against nepotism and cronyism within the government, and they had differences of opinion over economic management.

In 1998 he was ousted from the government, and in 1999 was convicted of corruption and sentenced to six years in prison. In 2000 he was sentenced to another nine years for sodomy. In 2004 the Federal Court of Malaysia quashed the sodomy charges and he was released from gaol.

In 2008, he stood as a candidate in a by-election in the Malaysian seat of Permatang Pauh. He won with a landslide, re-entered parliament, and became Opposition Leader. Shortly after, fresh allegations of sodomy led to further charges which are now before the courts. Anwar denies all the charges against him, saying they were trumped up by political opponents.

In December 2009 Anwar was named by influential US magazine, Foreign Policy, as one of its Top 100 Global Thinkers. It says he has 'a bold message for change in a country now at the forefront of the struggle for democracy in the Muslim world. Today, Anwar's career is blossoming, despite a new, politically motivated indictment. Abroad, he has become an outspoken advocate of religious tolerance.'

Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant who worked for 23 years in the Religion and Ethics Unit of ABC TV. He has a Master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity. 

Topic tags: peter kirkwood, anwar ibrahim, exclusive interview, malaysia, fire-bombing, interfaith dialogue, sodomy



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Would the Koran that Anwar quotes from be the same one that contains the following verses?

"Slay the unbelievers wherever you catch them." (2:191) "Fight them, until there is no more dissent and religion is that of Allah." (2:193) "The vilest of animals in Allah's sight are those who disbelieve." (8:55) " I will instil terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their fingertips off them." (8:12) "Verily, the unbelievers are unclean." (9:28)

I don't doubt Anwar's sincerity and good intentions. I only doubt that he will convince his fellow Muslims of the need for tolerance by quoting straight up from the Koran or the hadith, i.e. the recorded sayings and deeds of Mohammed.

The problem is that many of his co-religionists read the same works and find in them justification for the stoning of adulterers, the killing of apostates from Islam, the beating of wives, the suppression and persecution of non-Muslims. The old "taken out of context" line does not cut much ice with many of these fanatics.

I hope and pray that he has every success in his inter and intra religious dialouge for peace and tolerance.
Patrick James | 29 January 2010

perhaps these are the same sort of thinkers who inscribe scripture references on weapons telescoping sights, suggesting some sort of 'holy war'in which the US is defending God. Or those who have spoken of an axis of evil - locating evil elsewhere; or those who assault Indians in our country, or those who simply judge others and feel righteous. It all starts somewhere.

This story of Anwar Ibrahim is a story of hope.

Jacinta Bright | 29 January 2010

Anwar has made conflicting statements in regards to the imposition of Sharia on non-Muslims.While on the one hand declaring that Sharia should not be imposed on non-Muslims, he has also said:
"Justice entails ruling according to the dictates of Islamic law..."

Also,Kirkwood might want to have this statement by Anwar translated so as to not look naive:
"... Dari segi rumpun Melayu .... kekuatan Bumiputera rapat dengan Islam, rapat, sejak awal tidak boleh nafikan. Penjajah bila bertapak target nya adalah mempastikan ada dikalangan orang2 Melayu dan Bumiputera menjadi orang Kristian supaya dengan cara ini mereka boleh split rank and file orang2 Melayu di Semenanjung dan Bumiputera di Sabah dan Sarawak.

"Sebab itu penterjemahan kitab injil ke Bahasa Malaysia ialah langkah pertama yang Raffles mintak Abdullah Munshi lakukan: salah satu perkara pertama ialah terjemahkan kitab Injil kepada Bahasa Malaysia atau Bahasa Melayu pada masa itu .. Kerana mesti dapatkan sekolompok orang Melayu menjadi Kristian.

"Mereka gagal, tapi concentration dan effort di Sabah dan Sarawak terlalu kuat.
ganesh | 30 January 2010

Jacinta, I have heard your argument before, namely moral equivalence. It runs something along the lines that there are evil people in all societies; fanatics of any religion can justify their atrocities by perverting the true meaning of their scriptures; underneath we all believe in the same thing or the same God. This is all so much nonsense.

There is only one religion in the world currently inflicting the evils I enumerated in my first post on its own members and others; Islam.

I cannot vouch for other religions, but I know that what Christians have done in the name of Christ through the ages can be shown to be contrary to his words and actions. "Love one another as I have loved you." "Do good to your enemies. Love those that hate you." Even on the cross he begged his Father to forgiven those who had crucified him.

I challenge you, Jacinta, (and this is what Anwar must do also) to show that what Muslims have done, and are doing, in the name of Mohammed, are similarly inconsistent with his words and actions as recorded in the sacred texts of Islam. Good luck with it!
Patrick James | 30 January 2010

My argument is against a dualistic view that sees Islam and all connected with Islam as evil. I believe that good and evil exist in each of us.

There seems to be two views in relation to the interpretation of the Qu'ran - one where Islam understands war only as a means of defending itself and the other where Islam sees itself as at war with non-Islamic states.

Here are some quotes from the Qu'ran
"And if they incline to peace, incline also to it..." (Enfal: 8:61) "do not attack then first. God does not love aggressors..." (Bakara: 2/190) and "Fighting is permitted to those who are fought against, because they were wronged." (Hacc: 22-39).

How similar this is to our own scripture - 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matt 22: 37-40)

You might find interesting "Travelling Together Beyond Dialogue" - a compliation of papers submitted to the 2002 Christian-Muslim Dialogue Conference in Australia. It is from this book that I have been readily able to retrieve some quotes from the Qu'ran. It also restates the Catholic Church's committment to dialogue in order to develop understanding between Chrisian's and Muslims.

If people really believe that all Muslims do is promote aggression against non-Muslim states then that is very sad. There is a need for all of us (Christian and Muslim) to open our eyes and our hearts to see that there are many ways that Muslims and Christains alike live up to the teaching of love, compassion and peace that is expressed in our scriptures. Just as there are many ways and times that Christians and Muslims promote all that is opposed to what we each preach. But one will only see it if one chooses to be open to see it.

I personally have had many dealings with Muslim people and those I have mixed with are people of peace and tolerance.

I wish you peace!
Jacinta Bright | 31 January 2010

Thank you for you wishes of peace. They are returned.

I agree with you that good and evil reside in each individual and each culture. I also have met Muslims who are fine humans and want no part of violence or intolerance. However, the question must be asked; how well they know their own religion?

Nonie Darwish is an apostate from Islam. In a recent interview she was commenting on the rise of radio shows where Muslims can ring in and ask questions about Mohammad and Islam. She said, "Muslim callers to these Arabic shows have proved beyond doubt how many Muslims have no clue as to what is written in their scriptures and religious laws."

According to scholars there were two phases in the Mohammed's career. There were the Meccan suras and the Medinan suras. The Meccan ones are generally conciliatory towards others. They were "revealed" as Mohammed was trying to attract followers. The Medinan suras were "revealed" after he gained ascendancy. These are the ones which talk of death to the unbelievers, my way or the highway.

Finally, Jacinta, you must face the fact of the extremely barbaric nature of Islam as practiced in countries like Saudi Arabia or Iran. Where do these laws come from? Sharia law, based on the Koran and the hadith of Mohammed.

It is up to Muslims to face these honestly and to reform themselves and their faith. The problem is that many brave Muslims who have tried to start on the path of refomration have been threatened with death.

These is why I so much admire Anwar and wish him every success.
Patrick James | 31 January 2010


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