Flirting with Zealotry in Malaysia


June 30, 2010

OPINION: Flirting with Zealotry in Malaysia

by Jackson Diehl (June 27, 2010)

Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of Malaysia’s political opposition, has become known over the past decade as one of the foremost advocates of liberal democracy in Muslim countries. His many friends in Washington include prominent members of the neoconservative movement — such as Paul Wolfowitz, the former World Bank president and U.S. ambassador to Indonesia — as well as such Democratic grandees as Al Gore.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman

Lately, Anwar has been getting attention for something else: strident rhetoric about Israel and alleged “Zionist influence” in Malaysia. He recently joined a demonstration outside the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur where an Israeli flag was burned. He’s made dark insinuations about the “Jewish-controlled” Washington public relations firm APCO Worldwide, which is working for Malaysia’s quasi-authoritarian government.

Therein lies a story of the Obama era — about a beleaguered democrat fighting for political and personal survival with little help from Washington; about the growing global climate of hostility toward Israel; and about the increasing willingness of U.S. friends in places such as Turkey and Malaysia to exploit it.

First, a little about Anwar: While serving as deputy prime minister under Malaysian strongman Mahathir Mohamad in the 1990s, he began pushing for reforms — only to be arrested, tried and imprisoned on trumped-up charges of homosexual sodomy. Freed after six years, he built a multi-ethnic democratic opposition movement that shocked the ruling party with its gains in recent elections.

It now appears to have a chance at winning the next parliamentary campaign, which would allow Malaysia to join Indonesia and Turkey as full-fledged majority-Muslim democracies.

Not surprisingly, Anwar is being prosecuted again. Once again the charge is consensual sodomy, which to Malaysia’s discredit remains a crime punishable by whipping and a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Anwar, who is 63 and married with children, denies the charge, and the evidence once again is highly suspect. His 25-year-old accuser has confessed to meeting Prime Minister Najib Razak and talking by phone with the national police chief in the days before the alleged sexual encounter.

Nevertheless the trial is not going well. If it ends in another conviction, Anwar’s political career and his opposition coalition could be destroyed, and his life could be at risk: His health is not great. Yet the opposition leader is not getting the kind of support from the United States as during his first prosecution, when then-Vice President Gore spoke up for him. Obama said nothing in public about Anwar when he granted Najib a prized bilateral meeting in Washington in April.

After a “senior officials dialogue” between the two governments this month, the State Department conceded that the ongoing trial again had not been raised, “because this issue was recently discussed at length.” When it comes to human rights, the Obama administration apparently does not wish to be repetitive.

Anwar meanwhile found his own way to fight back. Hammered for years by government propaganda describing him as an Israeli agent and a Wolfowitz-loving American lackey, he tried to turn the tables, alleging that APCO was manipulating the government to support Israeli and U.S. interests. He also said that Israeli agents had infiltrated Malaysia’s security forces and were “directly involved in the running of the government.”

Najib describes Israel as “world gangsters.” But he quickly turned Anwar’s words against him; APCO has been peddling the anti-Israel statements around Washington.

Anwar is like Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom he regards as a friend and fellow traveler. Both know better than to indulge in such stuff. Both have recently begun to do it anyway — after a year in which the Obama administration has frequently displayed irritation with Israel. “If you say we are growing impatient with Israel, that is true,” Anwar told me. “If you say I am not too guarded or careful in what I say sometimes, that is also true.”

Anwar, who was in Washington for a couple of days last week, spent a lot of time offering explanations to old friends, not to mention House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman and a Jewish leader or two. He said he regretted using terms such as “Zionist aggression,” which are common coin for demagogues like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Why do I need to use it if it causes so much misunderstanding?” he said. “I need to be more careful.”

Many of the Malaysian’s friends are inclined to give him a break. “What Anwar did was wrong, but considering that he’s literally fighting for his life — physically as well as politically — against a government that attacks him as being ‘a puppet of the Jews,’ one should cut him some slack,” Wolfowitz told me.

But Anwar’s story can also be read as a warning. His transition from pro-American democrat to anti-Israeli zealot is sobering — and it is on the verge of becoming a trend.

31 thoughts on “Flirting with Zealotry in Malaysia

  1. “First, a little about Anwar: While serving as deputy prime minister under Malaysian strongman Mahathir Mohamad in the 1990s, he began pushing for reforms — only to be arrested, tried and imprisoned on trumped-up charges of homosexual sodomy.”

    What of heterosexual sodomy? That too is illegal and unlawful in Muslim Malaysia.

  2. And what the hell is “Indonesia and Turkey as full-fledged majority-Muslim democracies.”??

    “After a “senior officials dialogue” between the two governments this month, the State Department conceded that the ongoing trial again had not been raised, “because this issue was recently discussed at length.”…
    In other words, anwar will have to deal with his mess himself. The US will not be fooled twiced.
    Too much shit involved!

  3. Read this by your national news agency (June 30, 2010):

    Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has told his friends in the United States that he regretted using terms such as “Zionist aggression”, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

    In an article by its deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl, the paper said Anwar was in Washington for a couple of days last week. “(He) spent a lot of time offering explanations to old friends, not to mention House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman and a Jewish leader or two,” Diehl wrote in the article with the headline ‘Flirting with zealotry in Malaysia’.

    Anwar said he regretted using terms such as “Zionist aggression”, which are “common coin demagogues like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad”, Diehl added. “Why do I need to use it if it causes so much misunderstanding? I need to be more careful,” the writer quoted Anwar, who is also the advisor of PKR.

    “If you say we are growing impatient with Israel, that is true. If you say I am not too guarded or careful in what I say sometimes, that is also true.”

    The daily noted Anwar recently joined a demonstration outside the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur where an Israeli flag was burned and had also made dark insinuations about the “Jewish-controlled” Washington public relations firm, APCO Worldwide, which is working for the Malaysian government.

    “Najib describes Israel as ‘world gangsters’. But he quickly turned Anwar’s words against him; APCO has been peddling the anti-Israel statements around Washington,” wrote Diehl.

    Obama silence on Anwar

    Diehl said many of Anwar’s friends, among them former diplomat and ex-World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz, were inclined to give him a break.

    Diehl said Wolfowitz told him: “What Anwar did was wrong, but considering that he’s literally fighting for his life – physically as well as politically – against a government that attacks him as being ‘a puppet of the Jews’, one should cut him some slack.”

    Diehl said Anwar was not getting the kind of support from the US for his current second sodomy trial unlike the first prosecution when the then vice-president, another of his friends, had spoken up for him.

    President Barack Obama said nothing in public about Anwar during a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Najib Razak in Washington in April, he added.

    Anwar, he said, found his own way to fight back by trying to turn the tables on allegations that he was an Israeli agent and a “Wolfowitz-loving American lackey”.

    “..he tried to turn the tables, alleging that Apco was manipulating the government to support Israeli and US interests. He also said that Israeli agents had infiltrated Malaysia’s security forces and were directly involved in the running of the government,” Diehl wrote. — Bernama

  4. While Wisma Putra are resting on their laurels’ for pulling off the dog and pony show during Jibbo’s recent visit, its good to see Anwar going the extra mile to do the much needed ‘contrition’ public relations repair in D.C.

    From the tone of this article, it appears that Obama administration is the target of ‘denigration’ for it’s foreign policy sanfus. Anyway, POTUS is being harried enough by the BP oil leak disaster, not to mention defending ‘rear guard’ action regarding Gen McChrystal’s dismissal. His star ain’t to audacious in hope after all..

  5. Anwar should know better – the United States has a bigger agenda than Anwar, and Anwar is only important if he has something to offer to better the American political agenda. Currently, Anwar has nothing to offer to the Americans.

    The likes of Al Gore, who would stand up for Anwar, is a breed no longer in existence in Washington DC.

    Anwar, remember the Hmongs, and the other tribes Cambodia? They stood up for the Americans, and got slaughtered, and their younger generations lost in the slumps of US if they were lucky at all to get there? That is what America is all about. There is no such thing as reward for loyalty. Americans have very short memories, big on talk and short on everything else. Remember the concept of new Europe and old Europe? Remember who originally trained and supplied arms to those in Afghanistan against the Russians? Remember who trained the Iranian and remember how the Shah of Iran got treated by the US? Obama is no different – Anwar is better off cultivating the Chinese. In Sino culture, the word honor means something. The word honor has absolutely no meaning for the American leaders. But still America is a place where your basic rights will not be denied.

  6. It is time Anwar considers employing a political strategist with the same caliber as Karl Rove. He has tied himself into a knot from which he could never hope to extricate himself. Right now he has his nose to his ass.

  7. Mr Merican
    Remember in your posting Anwar Ibrahim in Washington, I posted a comment he will get a write up or two in Washington Post or Asia Wall street Journal..
    So there, here it is.
    The article appeared on June28 with the heading: ‘Flirting with zealorty: Another U.S. friend waxes anti-Israel.’
    Note the word U S friend. Yep. More of an American lackey.
    Look how he was apologetic about being like Ahmedinajad by using the word Zionist aggression.
    And as I have anticipated, his friend Wolfowitz came to his rescue saying America has to cut some slack with him because he was being persecuted.
    Look how Anwar speaks in tongues. He wants American help, so he goes grovelling.
    And WashPo is again repeating its previous article of criticising Obama for not speaking against our alleged disregard for human right.
    Why must Anwar be explaining and saying sorry for his anti-Zionist stance.
    That’s Anwar for you.
    Different strokes for diferent folks.

  8. Carlos

    You are right Carlos. Obama has not time nor the inclination to help a man who is in court for his own indiscretion.
    If he’s like Aung San Syuki, then US can help.
    He is in no asylum. Free and easy to travel to America several times a year.

  9. Screw the Jewish and Israeli lobby in the US.

    Their influence in world politics will come to an end with the rise of China and India by the middle of the 21st century. Theses European Jews cannot assimilate themselves to look like Chinese and Indians as they do in the US, UK and Europe by changing their names away from Jewish names.

    Who shot Lee Harvey Oswald point blank in the basement of Dallas police headquarters, where Oswald was being transferred to the County Jail. The incident occurred on live television? His name was reported in the Jewish controlled press as Jack Ruby (sound anglo)

    But Jack Ruby’s real name is JACOB RUBENSTEIN, a Jewish polish immigrant who changed his name legally to be JACK LEON RUBY. His parents, Joseph Rubenstein and Fannie Turek Rutkowski were Orthodox Jews.

    Like Kirk Douglas (sounds anglo and WASP) , whose real name is Issur Danielovitch Demsky, and who is Jewish. Or the comedian Jerry Lewis, whose real name is Joseph Levith, and Jewish.

    Of course unless European Jews would emigrate to China in later part of 21st century and you have family names like Rubenstein changed to Wang or Li. Or emigrate to India and have Einfeld changed to Patel or Chawdry.

  10. the article is telling.

    Anwar made a statement and now has to turn around and explain himself. This is a very weak position no leader should have to face.

    His friends in Washington has said one should cut him some slack.

    My question is who are Anwars advisors?

    The Palestinian/Jewsih problem is separate to anything Anwar is facing right now. Anwar should be concentrating in strengthening PKR.

    When you say something you will be caught out. better not say anything at all or stand by what you have said. face the consequences.

    We cannot just say, screw the jews. They are here. They are powerful and they are a force to be reckoned with , for now. When China and India comes into power they will be doing things we dont like, can we say screw them? or do we roll with the punches?

    Anwar needs to have the “audacity of hope”, the audacity ,period(Obama theoratically should not be the President but he is). If he wants PKR to win. He needs to concentrate on making damn sure that there is a powerful opposition, a force to be reckoned with within M’sia. He has no time now to be seen weak.

    This is a sign of a man, tired and at breaking point, the wolves will eat him alive. Every time he needs to open his mouth he should delieberate behind close doors with those he really trust and can tell him what he is saying has repurcussions or not.

    The best position M’sia has to offer is the position of being a liberal democratic Moslems nation ( well once upon a time) . So this is the fact we have to sell. The article hints to it. So why must Anwar sabotage that point. Work on it to become once again a fact under his stewardship and say it is no more under BN. This is the position that America will use as our strength and we will have allies. We have to sell America what they want. They dont want weakness.

    Once he is in power than he can concetrate on wider issues vis- a-vis palestinian/jewish issues etc etc.

    he has to be seen a strong leader not this, make a statement then turn around and apologise. Look at singapore isnt tthat how they do it. fight behind close doors but in public be strong with strong poisitons about issues.

    first things first get over this hurdle to survive then tackle wider issues once in power.

  11. We cannot just say, screw the jews.– kathy

    Kathy, read carefully. I say Jewish and Israeli LOBBY.

    I have all the highest respect for the ordinary Jewish person on mainstreet America or UK or Australia.

    My heroes are Noam Chomsky, Albert Einstein and Jerry Seinfeld.

  12. yes, yes frank.

    All I am saying is we have to be pragmatic and be the liberal democratic nation Molsem nation that is needed right now via a vis the right wing moslem carnage around the owrld. we need to be the voice of reason.

    He needs to make his political party a force to be reckoned with first. when theya re in power and credible, they can then face otehr issues.

    We as loberal democratic nation have to stop using the religious card game. It is not necessary with the western world. they need worldly solutions to a problem that they have to solve.

  13. The Washington Post captured the quintessential Anwar.
    Give a round of applause to this international actor extraordinaire.
    With us here, he is the staunchest anti-Zionist. With the Americans he is a Jewish lover..
    Even offered an excuse as to why he is that way.
    He gave new meaning to when in Rome, do as the Romans do.
    So you guys still want him as PM??

  14. Looks like Obama will be a one term President.
    Talks like a progressive but actually deep in the pockets of
    corporate America. No wonder in their desperation and frustration, some Americans are turning to extremist movements like the Tea Party.

    Progressive economist Dean Baker has written extensively on
    the connections of people like Tim Geithner, Larry Summers etc
    to Wall Street.

    Don’t count on America to support progressive movements or even popular democracy in the Third World. Certain segments of the Democratic Party will support, at best. So, we have the US govt propping up the govt of Uzbekistan because the latter is an ally of the “war on terror”. Not to mention its hostility to the Evo Morales govt in Bolivia.

    Better to spend time getting support from the govts of Scandinavia and from progressive NGOs in the USA.

  15. Jerry Seinfeld?-kathy

    yes, Jerry Seinfeld.

    He finds humour in nothing in everyday life…

    It takes a genius to do that. Like Einstein discovered Theory of Relativity just by looking at everyday life eg sitting in a train while the other is moving.

  16. A country that espouses conservative Muslims values can at best only hope to oscillate from being a totalitarian state to a fascist to an authoritarian one and back.

    To expect a Muslim nation to mature into a liberal democracy is like expecting the blog’s Lolita to become a nun and not later be defrocked.

  17. When you are a tainted leader with things to hide ( Mr PM of Bolehland) there is always a prce to pay in the need to KOW TOW to the US of A. In getting to meet OBAMA in his hurry to win US endorsement for his stint as PM, as well as his ill gotten family wealth stashed in the US,Najib had to agree to SUPPORT US POLICIES IN AFGHANISTAN as support is lacking from MUSLIM and Non- ALIGNED COUNTRIES !!Thus the appointment of a MALAYSIAN SPECIAL ENVOY TO AFGHANISTAN AND THE DEPLOYMENT OF NON COMBATANT MILITRY MEDICS to AFGHANISTAN at an estmated YEARLY COST OF RM 28 MILLION !!!. GOOD LUCK TAX PAYERS !!!!

  18. A country that espouses conservative Muslims values can at best only hope to oscillate from being a totalitarian state to a fascist to an authoritarian one and back. Mr Bean.

    how accurate this observation. I wonder why I keep trying at times.

    we live in hope. then again…. maybe not!

  19. Does anyone really believe the Zionists care one bit what leaders of our country think or say about them?

    People like Anwar are wasting their time going overseas every other day to pretend that anyone cares, when that time could be so much better spent trying to sort out the mess we are in right here.

  20. when that time could be so much better spent trying to sort out the mess we are in right here. – Isa Manteqi

    100% correct.

  21. Hey Mr Din Merican! You changed what I wrote!

    Apparently our mess is our mess and his, and his is his alone to manage. And that’s what he is doing. Don’t get messed up.

    No typo error there!

  22. For someone with a degree in language, it just doesn’t make sense that he do not understand the meaning of ‘zionism’ and ‘jew’

  23. lan5029

    Betul cakap anda.
    Jual negarapun takpe.
    Janji bertakhta di Putrajaya.

    Yang berkenaan tu cuma general degree in Malay studies.

  24. Siapa yang jual negara? I thought first it was Che Det and company selling everything with the Look East policy and taking huge Yen loans followed by Pak OK Lah and family (Scomi and then Pantai Group) and now Najibur with the Block L and M with some goblok deals and now the KTM land (supposedly a swap).

    Now I’m confused what else can be sold if not the Rakyat, sold in servitude to its neighbors. Pretty soon Malaysians will be exporting maids and pembantu rumah as there’s nothing else to sell. Human trade they call it, I say slavery.

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