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The Evolution of a Muslim Democrat

The Life of Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim


Charles Allers

Long before the recent «Arab Spring», when the topic of democracy with in many Muslim countries took center stage internationally, Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim, an energetic and charismatic politician, had been one of the most vocal global proponents of the compatibility of Islam and democratic principles. Anwar, who at one time was asked to be secretary-general of the United Nations, has lived a life that is a compelling testimony of the growth and evolution of his love for his country and his faith. Anwar has been active at the highest levels of Malaysian politics for over thirty years, and though he has been jailed for his activism on several occasions, he continues to be a dynamic, passionate voice for the diverse cultures, religions, and peoples of Malaysia. Anwar’s life story is told in a factual, impartial way, and his one-on-one interviews with this book’s author add a personal component. This volume is essential reading for scholars and students interested in Islamic politics and South East Asian studies.


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2 - Background of Malay/MalaysianHistory and Islam


2 - Background of Malay/Malaysian History and Islam The purpose of this chapter is to briefly outline the history of Malaysia from Before the Common Era (BCE) to the present day (Common Era, or CE). Included in this outline will be a focus upon the introduction, assimilation and evolution of Islam specifically to the Malay Peninsula. History General. Malaysia’s early history is shaped by its geography, where three primary natural aspects evidence themselves. The first is the peninsula’s location, nearly equidistant between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. This placement set the Malay Peninsula within reach of both early eastern and western trade routes, each of which can be traced to several hundred years BCE. The second aspect is the region’s dominant weather pattern—the cycle of monsoons. Sail ships used the prevailing winds of one season to travel, and the subsequent opposing winds’ season to return to their point of origin. Thus, the peninsula was ideal as a locus for cross-cultural commerce, as well as a fixed point for cargo storage and nautical refitting. As regional seafaring evolved into trans-oceanic travel, the waters west of the Malay Peninsula, known as the Straits of Melaka (described by one historian as “a gullet … through which the foreigners’ sea and land traffic in either direction must pass”1) offered to maritime travelers and merchants both the safest and most expeditious linkage between diverse ocean markets. Thirdly, the area was rich in resources: tin (and for a brief time, ANWAR IBRAHIM...

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