The article by former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from the Sungei Buluh prison which appeared in the recent issue of Time magazine as well as in the International Herald Tribune has evoked opposite responses in the political arena.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad refuted Anwar’s charges that while the local media was used to stir up anti-American sentiments, the political elites were using a different language for international diplomacy.
Nothwithstanding Mahathir’s denial, there is no doubt that the September 11 terrorist mass murders have greatly altered the global political landscape, drastically reshuffling international relations - with Pakistan for instance transforming itself from a hostile state to a most prized ally of the United States before and after the holocaust.
Malaysia-US relations is no exception. Before September 11, Mahathir had not been able to even secure a tea tete-a-tete at the White House with President Bush but after the World Trade Centre and Pentagon carnage, Bush himself telephoned Mahathir in his campaign to line up an international coalition against terrorism, Osama bin Laden and the Talibans.
This is also why the United States Trade Representative Robert Zoellick is visiting Malaysia tomorrow, the first American Cabinet-level official to visit Kuala Lumpur since 1998 when the bilaterial ties between the two countries soured after the public support of the then visiting American President Al Gore for the incarcerated Anwar Ibrahim and reformsai.
Zoellick comes as a special envoy to President Bush and will be meeting the Prime Minister, the International Trade and Industry Minister, Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz and Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar.
Mahathir and his Cabinet Ministers should be on guard as Zoelick had been using September 11 terrorism for the opportunistic goal, not only to secure “fast track” trade negotiating power for Bush from Congress by claiming that trade “promotes the values at the heart of this protracted struggle”, he will also be using the terrorist attacks to arm-twist Malaysia to agree to a new round of world trade negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting in Doha next month.
The Malaysian goverrnment should make it very clear to Zoellick during his visit that it is not ready for the launch of another round of global trade talks and even propose the postponement of the Doha WTO meeting until the international situation is more stable and the dust and ashes from the US air strikes in Afghanistan have settled.
At the other end of the Malaysian political spectrum, however, PAS has questioned the authenticity of Anwar’s article on Islam and terrorism in the Time magazine. PAS Youth chief Mahfuz Omar said that his party did not know if the article was indeed written by Anwar as the views which he stated contradicted the position of the opposition parties, especially PAS.
In the article titled “Who Hijacked Islam”, Anwar said that the Sept 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington must be condemned and the condemnation must be without reservation.
He said that he was “perturbed by the confusion among Muslims who responded to the attack with a misplaced diatribe against the United States”.
It is not for non-Muslims to address the issue as to the criteria for Muslims to declare jihad, but it is clearly the right of non-Muslim Malaysians to be concerned about any declaration of jihad directly affecting the nation as it will have far-reaching political, economic and nation-building repercussions on the people made up of diverse races, cultures and religions.
PAS has condemned the US-led airstrikes in Afghanistan but its leaders should seriously reconsider their declaration of a “jihad” and the giving of the go-ahead for its members to fight alongside the Talibans forces.
Barisan Alternative and the other component parties cannot avoid a stand on PAS’ declaration of jihad on US air-strikes in Afghanistan and ‘green-light to members to fight alongside Taliban forces, as this declaration has created dismay and consternation among all non-Muslims apart from among the Muslims in Malaysia.
Let all Malaysians and political parties in the country achieve a national consensus on the September 11 terrorist attacks and the US airstrikes in Afghanistan, so that they do not become pawns in partisan political competition or competition.
An all-party roundtable conference should be convened for
a national consensus binding all political parties, whether Barisan
Nasional, Barisan Alternative or DAP on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
and US air strikes in Afghanistan comprising the following five elements: