By Shannon Teoh
LONDON, March 19 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has slammed as “ridiculous” the idea that Muslims in Malaysia were under threat from Christians, and instead accused Umno of sanctioning racism.
“In this Allah issue, the idea that Muslims are under threat from Christians is ridiculous to say the least,” he said at a press conference, after his talk at the London School of Economics here yesterday.
“They are playing with fire,” he said and added that the prime minister’s 1 Malaysia slogan, based on a united Malaysia, was not consistent with what was happening on the ground.
“Malaysia is not a Muslim state, or... well, I’m not sure now,” he joked. “But it is not secular either because there is not a total separation of religion and state.”
He explained that while countries like the United States are seen as secular, they were in fact built on religious principles.
Earlier in his talk, which saw hundreds being turned away, he accused Umno of simply feigning interest in Islamic values.
“What Umno has done is not about Islamic issues at all. If you find a committed Muslim, you can argue with him, but in Umno, they don’t even want to understand what Islam is about.
“It is just political expediency and a crude blend of politics. It is distasteful, the way they abuse the Chinese,” he added, in seeming reference to a recent racist statement by Datuk Nasir Safar, made when he was still an aide to the prime minister.
“There should be freedom not just for an ex-deputy prime minister,” he said in reference to the overturning of his sodomy conviction in 2004, “but all Malaysians.”
Anwar went on to explain that the basic issue was one of governance, and added that the strength of Islam in South East Asia was in its inclusivity and moderate position, which took into consideration the interests of other religions.
“The moment Syariah courts can compel non-Muslims, it transgresses fundamentals of the Constitution. It becomes contentious when you deny the rights of non-Muslims or use obscure Syariah interpretation to impose on non-Muslims.
“We need to educate Umno leaders,” said the former deputy president of the Malay party, drawing laughs from the 400-strong audience of mostly Malaysian students at the talk.