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Dalai Lama shakes hands, Anwar Ibrahim dances

I refer to Malaysiakini report Anwar spars with KJ over 1Israel, tycoon's daughter .


In Parliament last Wednesday, Anwar Ibrahim excoriated BN for giving ‘a whole mountain’ to the late Lim Goh Tong to build the Genting Highlands casino complex, yet having the brazen double standard nerve to complain about Pakatan's land allocations for Chinese new villages in Perak.


Then Khairy Jamaluddin riposted by accusing Anwar of being the deputy prime minister who gave Lim the land, but I believe he had attacked ad hominem and irrelevantly by raising the issue of Anwar dancing with Lim’s daughter.


Never an admirer of Anwar Ibrahim, I wouldn’t have dreamed of defending him but I’ll take the advice of my uncle who told me that one could always try something new or unusual.


Firstly, Anwar made the allusion to the BN’s award of the land in Genting Highlands to Lim Goh Tong in a specific context, and not as an isolated point of attack against BN. He did so in comparing or rather contrasting the BN’s double standard in criticising Perak Pakatan’s assistance to the landless Chinese new villages.


But Khairy’s response to the issue of Genting did not in any way explain away the BN’s glaring double standard. No, Khairy failed to ameliorate the BN’s unsympathetic view of the land needs of Perak’s new villagers while it had supported Lim. This may be something for Pakatan to take to the voters in general, and Perakian new villagers in particular.


Secondly, by mentioning Anwar’s dance with Lim’s daughter, Khairy was punching his parliamentary opponent below the belt, though of course in Malaysian politics there’s no Queensberry rule in political fisticuffs, where Thai boxing technique such as kicking the opposition in the groin or elbowing him in the eye are quite acceptable, and in fact the norm which would be applauded by one’s own side.


Anyway, back to Anwar’s dancing. Before I explain why it’s not something scandalous for the opposition leader despite his Islamic stand, have you ever seen the Dalai Lama in action on his campaign trail in the West? He would shake the hands of women, any women who held out her hand. If you are not a Buddhist, you would probably ask, so what?


Initially Buddhists and some like me, who were brought up in Buddhist families and know something about what Buddhist monks can and can’t do, were shocked by the Dalai Lama touching women’s hands. Buddhist monks are not suppose to be ever in physical contact with anyone of the female gender, either directly like shaking hands or indirectly like receiving a tray (or book, etc) from a female regardless of her age, no, not even from a little sweetheart who’s only five years old.


Yet the Dalai Lama has done it, is doing it and undoubtedly will be doing it. Why?


Because he is not only the Dalai Lama but a Tibetan politician who depends heavily on and campaign constantly for Western support. So when someone, say, like Cindy Crawford (the former wife of Richard Gere who is one of the Dalai Lama’s most devoted followers), Oprah Winfrey and Hilary Clinton extend their hands to the Dalai Lama, what do you think he as a Buddhist monk should do?


Of course, he would (notionally) take off his Lama hat and don his politician’s topee to shake their hands so as to not offend the Western ladies. You can bet it’s not wise to appear to the Western world as a religious fundamentalist, not when one needs their support. In most cases they wouldn’t know the vows of a monk nor would they care.


Eventually those ‘shocked’ Buddhists did the prudent thing, by keeping quiet about the embarrassing observation, that one of Buddhism’s top prelates has violated his own clerical vow, unless of course they have come to understand that it was merely politics.


I reckon it was a similar situation for Anwar Ibrahim when he (then DPM) danced with Lim Goh Tong’s daughter. I doubt it was Anwar who asked Lim’s daughter for a dance; most likely it was the other way around. Then it would have been churlish for a DPM not to accept a woman’s invitation to take to the floor, and probably insulting to her father. I do not believe that incident of social and chivalrous obligation had compromised Anwar’s Islamic credentials.


It’s known that Anwar’s wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail wears a glove for hand-shaking because of her Islamic stand. And if you don’t, then you have missed the news of how Zulkifli Nordin, who claimed to be a family friend fo Anwar and Wan Azizah, had sneered at her for this.

Obviously, as the wife of a politician and the president of a political party herself (first Keadilan, now PKR) she has prepared herself well for a bit of political campaigning where hand-shaking would be a common and virtually mandatory requirement. But I wouldn’t want to recommend wearing a glove to the Dalai Lama as it would still be a form of contact with women, and thus wouldn’t help a monk maintain his religious vow.


The problem is, of course ,when one has a certain standard of religious observance or is subordinated to a set of do’s and don’ts (like the Dalai Lama and Wan Azizah) it becomes quite tricky to maintain that standard in a different socio-cultural environment. For the Dalai Lama this would be the West and Western women, and for Wan Azizah, non Muslim men in Malaysia and overseas.


But the point is that a politician, whether the Dalai Lama, Dr Wan Azizah or Anwar Ibrahim, who depends also on the support of people from a different ethnic group or possess a different religion, has to be prepared to deal with these supporters’ different set of values and of course their innocent ignorance about the politician’s taboos.


Anyway, let’s keep an eye on the ball of the parliamentary debate and ask once again, did Khairy Jamaluddin manage to explain away Anwar Ibrahim’s accusation of the BN’s double standard in land allocation?


The answer has to be a disappointing 'nay'.