Malaysiakini Opinion

Can Amanah succeed where others fail?

Phar Kim Beng  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | Anyone who has vaguely studied the history of Islamic political discourse in Malaysia would have come across - perhaps become awestruck - by a martial-sounding Islamic social activist group: Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim).

Anyone who has delved into Abim, too, would not have missed the important role played by prime-minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim in trying to make Islam a relevant political force in Malaysia as well.

Instead of an Islam that is ceremonial in nature, Abim and Anwar tried to make Islam 'work'. And one of the first Malaysian prime ministers who tried to enable Islam to become a force of good was Dr Mahathir Mohamad, when he inducted Anwar into Umno in 1981.

Regardless of what had happened between Mahathir and Anwar in the fallout of the Asian financial crisis in 1998, one thing remains true: both are deep believers in protecting the interest of the Muslim world, and consequently, the non-Muslims that come under their charge.

Whereas Mahathir was audacious enough to criticise the West, Anwar was unrelenting in demanding democracy. The goal of the latter? To make Islam a democratic force to be contend with, where all the good habits of democracy and institutional accountability can take hold.

Thus, almost from the very beginning, Abim would speak about the uneven economic development of Malaysia in the 1970s; the injustices that affect all the races; the lack of proper governance; indeed, the absence of any form of genuine freedom and democracy to talk about the importance of justice.

Not surprisingly, the earlier generation of Abim thinkers often found themselves under detention. However, if one cares to look even more deeply into the history of such Islamic discourse, it wasn't Anwar that tried to raise the flag of Islam alone. The likes of Yusuf Rawa, Fadzil Noor, both of whom had passed on, were the first torch bearers too.

But it was Mohamad Sabu, the present defence minister, who took his Islamic struggle into PAS, and ultimately...

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