A political storm over Israel in Malaysia

A political storm over Israel in Malaysia
Anwar Ibrahim with Khaled Meshaal in Qatar

A political storm in Malaysia over controversial remarks by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s on Israel has not yet come to a close.

Back in January, a war of words erupted between Anwar and several top government officials, including his former mentor Dr. Mahathir Mohammed, regarding Malaysia’s policy on Israel – a raw nerve among the country’s Muslim-majority population.

Anwar, who was acquitted of sodomy charges less than two months ago, was quoted as having declared support for protecting the state of Israel’s security to the Wall Street Journal in an interview published on January 26.

He was quoted as saying: “Some refuse to recognise the state of Israel… but I think our policy should be clear – protect the security (of Israel) but you must be as firm in protecting the legitimate interests of Palestinians.”

Later, Anwar was made to clarify his stand in which he said that the remarks were consistent with the two-state solution that is accepted by the Arab world, as well as Malaysia, and Fatah, which heads the Palestinian Authority.

Now, a barely reported meeting between Anwar and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Doha, Qatar last week appears to signal an attempt to burnish his pro-Palestinian credentials back home, although details of the meeting remain scarce.

As reported in the Opposition-controlled Malay-language Keadilan Daily, Anwar and his wife, Dr Wan Azizah Ismail, also met firebrand Egyptian cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi during the Qatar visit, where the Palestinian cause and the challenges of Muslims in the world, including Malaysia and the Arab Spring were reportedly discussed.

However, Anwar is still under attack from not only his political rivals, but now from his supposed political allies.

Nik Abdul Aziz, the spiritual leader of Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), said Anwar must withdraw his statement or sue the Wall Street Journal if his statement were misreported.

PAS is part of the tri-party alliance of opposition parties in Malaysia, known as the People’s Alliance (Pakatan Rakyat), which is headed by Anwar. In 2008, the loose alliance managed to deny the governing Barisan Nasional a two-thirds majority for the first time in Malaysia’s history as well as securing control over five state assemblies.

Aziz told reporters that PAS was not supportive of the two-state solution to the Palestinian cause that Anwar had spoken of in the WSJ interview.

The Malaysian Insider reports that Anwar will be meeting Nik Aziz to explain the statements that he had made regarding Israel.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Ambassador to Malaysia, Abdelaziz Abughoush, has said that Palestine is the core issue for all Muslims, and as such it was “weird” to have such a statement from a Malaysian Muslim leader.

“Malaysia is a pioneer in supporting the Palestinian people and their just cause. We are shocked and surprised by the weird statement in which he supported the security of Israel,” Abdelaziz said in a statement.

The Malaysian Star also reports today that the al-Quds Malaysia Foundation chairman Nasharudin Mat had Hamas’ displeasure at Anwar’s comments conveyed to him by its Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh during Nasharudin’s recent visit to Kuwait.

Nasharudin had said Hamas officials had asked him why Anwar made the statement, which contravened a 1988 fatwa issued by 66 muftis that any action that gave recognition to Israel’s existence opposed Islam.

Michael Shannon