The word “Muslim Democrat,” is often attributed to Rashid Ghanochi of the En-Nahda party in Tunisia.
While Rashid Ghanochi is a close friend of Anwar Ibrahim, any thoughts of expropriating the label to himself is not there.
What Charles Alles meant by it, both in terms of how Anwar Ibrahim——-the subject matter of the book defines it——-is far and beyond one person one vote.
It implies the very tenacity going eyeball-to-eyeball with an authoritarian state, not only without blinking.
The strength of this book, surprisingly is how sparse are the details on the torture, invariably, the trials and tribulations that Anwar Ibrahim withstood some 12 years of solitary confinement.
The book gained from all the access to Anwar Ibrahim. Thus there was no issue of not being able to ask Anwar Ibrahim any questions to the author’s content, especially when this was actually the author’s doctoral dissertation.
What makes the book worth having, not just reading, are three important elements.
First, Anwar Ibrahim personifies the need to engage in a perpetual struggle to authenticate the meaning of democracy, whether in the form of poverty eradication, multiracialism, or, per the concept of John Rawl’s concept of “fairness as justice”.
Second, “Fairness as justice,” one should remember is not an easy philosophical question in the tombs of Western or Islamic philosophy. Does “fairness” and “justice” lead to a happier, equitable and more informed society, to pass the baton to the proverbial next generation ? In meaningful and simple prose, Galles could capture the spiritual and political essence of Anwar Ibrahim since his days as a student leader.
Finally, precisely because there was no malice to all his detractors, and enemies, who kept blocking the dreams of Malaysians of all races to be the Prime Minister, the book seems light but in more ways than one, it is a book of wearied hopes. Not of Anwar Ibrahim himself, much as he had admitted to global audiences, that it is “frustrating” to be denied time and again, but the collective frustration of Malaysians who knows what “Reformasi” means, and how urgent parliamentary reforms should be the enforced.
Neither Galles nor Anwar Ibrahim had to underscore that urgency precisely because the transient “democratic” moment on May 9 2018 was upended by the treachery of leaders who gave their pseudo promises to get Malaysia right. These antagonists include Mahathir Mohammad, without a doubt the enabler of the Sheraton Move, that triggered the downfall of Pakatan Harapan on February 24 2019, by unilaterally re-signing as the Prime Minister, without consulting the Presidential Council; when this institution is there to keep the grand coalition stable.
Too bad the book was written well before the “Sheraton Move,” otherwise the author himself——a democrat not least——-would pummel the treachery of Azmin Ali and the Group of 10 which he led to break away from Pakatan Harapan.
That being said, it is true that Anwar Ibrahim scored some important first in the governance of Malaysia, either when he was the Deputy Prime Minister or the Finance Minister. The book was balanced, indeed, the Treasury enjoyed a surplus. Malaysia, under Anwar Ibrahim, was a true economic and financial tiger. This book did not go into the nitty gritty of how a delicate political economy of Malaysia could lead Anwar Ibrahim to redeem it.
But the local and international recognition of Anwar Ibrahim as an astute financial statesman was just as clear as his role as the democratic fighter who never gave up.
As Perikatan National stands at the precipice of losing their thin majority, gained in questionable manner through the Sheraton Move that is clearly a Sheraton Mess, it is fortunate that Malaysians still have Anwar Ibrahim and his family to look to, both in stamping Covid-19 out and preventing further economic and political convulsions.