In his impeccably tailored suit with emerald green cufflinks peeping out, it’s hard to guess that Anwar Ibrahim has spent a large part of his political career in prison.
The former deputy prime minister of Malaysia and now rebel leader of the Opposition, Ibrahim is in Mumbai to speak at the ongoing World Islamic Peace Conference at Somaiya Grounds, Sion.
“There can’t be such an open forum even in most Muslim countries. It speaks well of the democratic spirit of India,” said Ibrahim (62). “The people of India are very tolerant and accepting. Here, even the Muslims know the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata.”
Despite a tumultuous career, his political will led him to victory again and now he is a threat to Malaysia’s ruling party.
His message to the Muslim youth is more progressive with a focus on education. “People worry about young Muslims abandoning tradition but that does not bother me. The youth will evolve new traditions. I want to address the key issues of social justice and gender equality,” said the father of six children.
But what about the Hindus in Malaysia, who comprise about nine per cent of their population? “There is poverty among Hindus there but the key solution is education. There are other issues that need to be looked at like Hindus dying in police custody,” he said.
Ibrahim is also impressed by Bollywood and Indian food. “Mother India had a lasting impression on me. As for food, my wife has warned me not to overeat here,” he added.