The arrest of Anwar Ibrahim, former Prime Minister and respected opposition leader, in Kuala Lumpur on 16 July 2008 on charges that are obviously politically motivated is a cause of grave concern to all of Malaysia’s friends in the international community. These charges come only three months after the Keadilan party made the strongest electoral showing by an opposition party in Malaysian history and less than a day after Anwar Ibrahim’s announcement of his intention to stand for election to Parliament. In a replay of almost a decade ago in which Anwar Ibrahim’s imprisonment for six years on transparently political grounds discredited the Malaysian government, police and judiciary in the eyes of the world community, yet another smear campaign of similar allegations threaten the reputation of the Prime Minister and undermines Malaysia’s electoral politics, rule of law and democracy.
Anwar Ibrahim has a long established and celebrated record as a remarkably popular and effective political leader and public intellectual. His contributions, accomplishments and integrity have been acknowledged for many years in Malaysia, throughout the Muslim world and in the international community.
The Malaysian government should not follow the same path that it did in 1998. Instead of persecuting opposition politicians, it should allow Malaysia’s important democratic process to continue.
John L. Esposito
University Professor, Professor of Religion & International Affairs, and Founding Director
John O. Voll
Professor of Islamic History, Associate Director
Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University