Islam, Democracy and the Status of Malaysia's Quasi-Secular State

Co-presented with the Dept of Government and International Relations, at the University of Sydney

Dr Anwar Ibrahim
13 November, 2010

Why you should listen

Watch the whole lecture recording by ABC TV Big Ideas below or watch highlights on the ABC TV Big Ideas site

The University of Sydney was very pleased to host a special weekend lecture on campus by Malaysian Leader of the Opposition Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim is the Malaysian Leader of the Opposition in the opposition alliance called the Pakatan Rakyat (People Pact). He is currently the leader of the Parti KeADILan Rakyat (People Justice Party) of Malaysia. Anwar Ibrahim was Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1993-1998. He also served as Minister of Finance for Malaysia from 1991-1998.

During his tenure as Finance Minister, Malaysia enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and economic growth and joined the ranks of other Asian countries as an "Asian Tiger." Anwar's impact on the economy was immediate. In 1993, shortly after becoming Finance Minister, Euromoney named him as one of the top four finance ministers. In 1996, Asiamoney named him Finance Minister of the Year.

In the midst of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, Anwar was credited with guiding Malaysia through this period of instability. He advocated greater accountability and refused to support government bail-outs to politically connected companies facing bankruptcy. He also instituted widespread spending cuts. These measures earned Anwar many accolades, including the title "Asian of the Year" by Newsweek International in 1998.

Anwar Ibrahim has worked tirelessly towards the ideals of Convivencia, the mutual coexistence of civilisations and the interplay of different social, cultural, and spiritual ideas. Between 1995 and 1998 he organised a series of conferences on the Asian Renaissance, aimed at crossing geo-political barriers between societies and nations and creating political structures to promote dialogue across cultures. He has also supported inter-faith dialogue to promote religious tolerance and understanding, working with among others, the World Council of Churches, the East Asia Christian conference, the World Federation of Buddhist Youth and the Hindu Youth Council. During this period, Anwar also co-chaired the Pacific Dialogue. The group, comprising leaders from various disciplines across nations on the Pacific Rim, addressed the many challenges facing the Asia-Pacific region in the 21st century, seeking strategies on how it might attain lasting peace and prosperity.

In 1989 Anwar was elected President of the UNESCO World Council and was also Chairman of the Development Committee of World Bank and International Monetary Fund in 1998. During his tenure, he strongly endorsed the initiatives of debt cancellation and reprieve for poor countries, particularly those in Africa. In March 2006 he was named the Honorary President of AccountAbility, an international think-tank specialising in the development of innovative practices to promote accountability and good governance in the public and private sector. He has held lecturing positions at Oxford University, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.