Posted: 04 Feb 2012 11:23 PM PST
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Anwar Ibrahim are ideological allies who try to get together as often as they can.
In the last four weeks, both have sought each other's company twice, the first when Anwar flew to Istanbul via Bombay after his acquittal on a charge of sodomy on Jan 9.
On Friday, the two leaders got together again in Istanbul, at the Dolmabache Palace which lies on the European coastline of the Bosphorus, the sea that separates Europe and Asia.
The Malaysian opposition leader and his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the president of PKR, had a private chat with Erdogan during which Anwar urged the Turkish leader to continue supporting the Arab Spring, and push for sanctions against Syria while keeping the rights of the Palestinians on the front burner.
In centuries past, Istanbul was on the fault line between contending cultures and civilisations, notably Christian and Islamic ones.
Through Anwar and Erdogan's collaboration, the search for consonances between hitherto contending cultures and civilisations would be emphasised.
Yesterday, Anwar held forth on the theme to an audience of Turkish civil servants and politicians from Erdogan's party at Dolmabache Palace.
His aim was to fortify them in the belief that Islam is compatible with what the thinker Francis Fukuyama had predicted after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 as the spirit of the times: liberal democracy.
It's a tough act to bring off, there having been no resilient democratic governance in the Muslim world until the Turks put Erdogan and his Justice and Welfare Party in power and Suharto's overthrow brought the democracy-favouring Abdulrahman Wahid and Bambang Yudhoyono to power in Indonesia.
Under Erdogan's premiership, constitutional reforms in Turkey to expand the rights of women and the minorities, and the continuance of democratic reform in Indonesia have strengthened the hope that Muslim-dominant polities need not wind up being despotic and corrupt.
Transition to democracy irreversible
In his speech at Dolmabache Palace on the theme of 'Democracy and Islam', Anwar praised Erdogan's leadership which he claimed advanced the cause of constitutional democracy in the Muslim world.
"Justice is highly valued in Islam and any Muslim-majority state that adheres to the rule of law cannot but incorporate this value in its governance," said Anwar.
"If the legitimacy of a ruler is derived from the people, then the justness of that rule is of paramount importance," he claimed.
Anwar said the era of one-man and one-party rule is irrevocably over in the Muslim world.
"The transition to constitutional democracy is irreversible. The countries in the Islamic crescent from the Mediterranean to the Bosphorus must embrace this transition or be swept aside by this great awakening," he claimed.
He predicted that Southeast Asia, where he said there were still holdouts against the currents sweeping the Arab world, would soon join the deluge.
"It's just a matter of time before the torrents of the Arab Spring would be loosed on Southeast Asia. More dynasties and autocracies of old will be swept away and in their place new found freedoms and democracies will spring forth," said Anwar.
Also present in the PKR delegation, which called on the Turkish foreign and finance ministers for briefings, were deputy president Azmin Ali and secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution.
Posted: 04 Feb 2012 11:14 PM PST
Former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has said that Turkey’s democratic reforms give the entire Muslim world hope for the future of the Arab Spring.
Ibrahim discussed on Thursday the overlapping roles of Islam and democracy in the reforms sweeping North Africa and the Middle East at this month’s Alliance of Civilizations meeting in ?stanbul. "The Muslim masses want leadership," Ibrahim said. "The Muslim world needs an effective voice to represent the call for freedom and justice." Turkey’s role and influence in the Arab Spring is "critical," Ibrahim stressed, adding that both the Western and Muslim world are looking to Turkey and Indonesia, another flourishing Muslim democracy, at a time of great political change.
The developments in Turkey, Indonesia and in the Arab Spring countries offer the Muslim world a fresh voice, Ibrahim said.
The Malaysian politician described the excitement that bubbled among the masses and the complete silence of the leaders of the repressive regimes of countries that witnessed the Arab Spring uprisings. "This is why I was excited when the prime minister came out and presented the issue of human rights, the issue of freedom for all and the issue of dignity for all men and women as a universal construct, not just a Turkish or Western construct," he said. "It was timely that the prime minister took a position that no leader can continue without representing the sentiments and aspirations of the people." "I remain optimistic about the Arab Spring and the future of the Muslim world. We see how Turkey has navigated [successful democratization efforts and reforms]," said Ibrahim of the Muslim world's generally positive view of Turkey. "Keep up the good work," he encouraged.
Democracy is often heralded as an ideal that belongs to the West, but Ibrahim disagreed.
"Democracy is not just a Western construct," Ibrahim said. "Do you realize that Indonesia, the largest Muslim democracy in the world, had free, democratic elections in 1955?"
Ibrahim said he used to joke with former US Vice President Al Gore that Indonesia's elections in 1955 were far more democratic than Florida's in 2000. "Why do you think Muslim countries have risen up against exploitation, imperialism and colonization? Because they honor freedom," he told the crowd gathered at the prime minister's office in Dolmabahçe Palace.
"The Arab Spring will not be successful if it follows a Western model," Ibrahim emphasized. And on the question of what sort of government should be established in the place of the toppled regimes, Ibrahim said simply, "Let the Arabs decide."
But there are universal principles, Ibrahim said, that will not be compromised. "The freedom of expression, the freedom of speech and the battle against corruption and greed … these values we will not compromise," he said.
Contrasting Turkey, Malaysia's 'democracies'
"Turkey is a democracy. Malaysia is not," Ibrahim said matter-of-factly. Ibrahim argued it is wrong to call Malaysia a democracy. "There is not one free media outlet in Malaysia," he said.
On Thursday morning, Ibrahim said he read on the front page of a Turkish newspaper a stringent criticism of the prime minister's most recent comments. "This is what a democracy is all about — the right to disagree," he said.
"I often joke that in Malaysia we have freedom of speech, but not after speech," said Ibrahim, who was fired from his position as deputy prime minister and arrested after speaking out against the Malaysian prime minister.
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