Anwar invokes true meaning of sharia law


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’.

Peter Kirkwood, Eureka Street 

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.


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.