Part 2 - Reformasi in 1998: Perhaps Rafizi got it wrong?

Opinion  |  Phar Kim Beng
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | As things are, no one knows the demographic profile of the 800,000 PKR members. But it would not be farfetched to believe that many started following the party's president-elect Anwar Ibrahim's ideals and ideas from 1978 or 1988.

If the former date is valid, followers such as Azmin Ali, Khalid Jaafar, Kamaruddin Jaafar or Muhammad Nur Manuty could not have missed the important revelation of the book 'Among The Believers' by VS Naipaul.

Naipaul was a famous British writer born in Trinidad and Tobago. Although of Indian ancestry and parentage, he was a top writer in 1980s, spurred not least by his vintage prose that was both elegant and lucid.

But Naipaul didn't do Anwar any favour. Despite granting Naipaul an interview in 1979, the prickly British writer had Anwar classified as an "Islamic" fundamentalist, ostensibly one who would do all the biddings of then Iran leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

This was a serious, if not a pernicious, mischaracterisation of Anwar and many Muslim activists interviewed by Naipaul in his famous book, which oddly enough, was later rewarded with the Nobel Prize in English Literature.

Knowingly or unknowingly, most likely the former, Naipaul started this wave of prejudice against Anwar and Muslim thinkers and intellectuals who wanted to use "Islam" as a template to redeem their countries and civilisations.

Their inability to separate what was secular and spiritual, according to Naipaul, would be the first sign of their impending failure in the years and decades to come.

Yet, Naipaul was using a condescending outlook to tar almost every Muslim activist - even if they were trained in top universities like Leiden University in Netherlands or McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Whatever the credentials of the activists, if they don't keep the state and religion apart, they were deemed as atavistic thinkers. That was Naipaul's yardstick...

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