Time Magazine has honoured our very own Anwar Ibrahim by recognising him as one of the worlds most influential people of 2007. The criteria for selection is not merely people with power. Rather, as Time Editor Richard Strengel explains:
Influence is hard to measure, and what we look for is people whose ideas, whose example, whose talent, whose discoveries transform the world we live in. Influence is less about the hard power of force than the soft power of ideas and example. Yes there are Presidents and dictators who can change the world through fiat, but we’re more interested in innovators like Monty Jones, the Sierra Leone scientist who has developed a strain of rice that can save African agriculture. Or heroes like the great chessmaster Garry Kasparov, who is leading the lonely fight for greater democracy in Russia. Or Academy Award winning actor George Clooney who has leveraged his celebrity to bring attention to the tragedy in Darfur
I believe our leader Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim is the first Malaysian to be given this singular honour. I am proud of him and proud to be associated with him. More great things to come I am sure.
By Paul Wolfowitz
During the 1990s, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and a group of U.S. Senators organized a forum to exchange views among East Asians and Americans. Asked at one session about the role of Islam in politics, Anwar replied, “I have no use for governments which call themselves Islamic and then deny basic rights to half their population.”
This devout Muslim leader was an impressive and eloquent advocate of tolerance, democracy and human rights. So we were shocked by his arrest and trial in 1998 on charges of corruption and sodomy. I felt his real “crime” had been to challenge Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, whose impressive record will be forever stained by his treatment of Anwar. I joined Senator Sam Nunn and others to speak out in Anwar’s defense. When he was finally released from prison in 2004, U.S. policy on Iraq was unpopular in Malaysia, and Anwar was harshly critical. It would have been easy for him to disown our friendship, but he is not that kind of person. He kept the channels of dialogue open, even while making clear our disagreements.
Anwar, 60, is back in the center of Malaysian politics. The coalition led by his wife Wan Azizah has become the main opposition bloc. His future role can be determined only by Malaysians. One can hope that they will embrace his brand of tolerance, valuing dialogue across political differences, and that this courageous leader will continue to play a leading role on the world stage.
Wolfowitz is a former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense