“We Face a Deficit of Democracy in Malaysia”

Interview with Anwar Ibrahim

As leader of the opposition, Anwar Ibrahim is one of Malaysia’s most influential politicians. In this interview with Rizki Nugraha he speaks about Muslim-Christian relations, the influence of religion on politics and the outlook for democracy in his country

Tension between religions in Malaysia has been rising since the court ruling that allows non-Muslims to use the word “Allah”.

Anwar Ibrahim: Certain groups feel that it is in their interest to ratchet up tension because it serves their ulterior motives, but I would not say that great damage has been inflicted on Muslim-Christian relations. The Christian community’s response to the arson attacks has been very positive and measured, and many Muslims have come out in support of the Christian community, for example, forming neighbourhood watch committees to protect Churches.

I have travelled far from the epicentre of the so-called “disturbances” and I find that people are generally unperturbed by the court ruling and are wary of being manipulated by the powers-that-be, whose steady decline in the popular ratings is the real reason for this artificially created crisis.

I’m happy to say that the broader population is not easily hoodwinked.

Why did the Malaysian government insist on appealing the court’s decision, despite the fact that in doing so, it risks widening the gap between Muslims and Christians?

Ibrahim: The government appealed because it is hostage to the demands of an incendiary few. This group insists on using this issue to drive a wedge between different parts of the electorate – hoping to score a few points with fringe elements. They are not very concerned that the consequences of their actions could broaden divisions in society and lead to strife.