PM Anwar Ibrahim's Resolute Stance on Gaza: Uniting Malaysia's SupportWritten by Ahmad Badri Abdullah
The Gaza conflict has been a long-standing and deeply sensitive issue for Muslims worldwide. As the world watches the crisis unfold, the need for strong, vocal leadership to champion the Palestinian cause is more crucial than ever. In this context, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia has emerged as a prominent and unifying figure, using his voice and influence to galvanize support for the Palestinian people among the diverse population of Malaysia.
As a leader of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation, Anwar Ibrahim faces the challenge of striking a balance between expressing solidarity with the Palestinian cause and uniting his country’s diversity.
Anwar has continuously proved his commitment to advocating for the rights of Palestinians. His unwavering support for Palestine has made him a prominent voice in the Muslim world and beyond. He consistently asserts that the Palestine-Israel issue should be viewed through the lens of the ‘politics of dispossession’, a concept propounded by Edward W. Said, a Palestinian-American academic, highlighting Israel's institutionalized method of expropriating landed assets from their Palestinian owners.
In contrast to other ASEAN countries' leaders who have used broader language to urge an end to violence and concentrate on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Malaysia's Prime Minister has displayed a distinctively stronger tone in his official statements and measures. This is what Julia Lau and Francis E. Hutchinson of the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore, have concluded.
The Prime Minister, in Parliament on October 16th, firmly rejected what he described as "pressure" from "Western governments" to condemn Hamas, highlighting that the organisation had been elected democratically by the people of Gaza and, therefore, has the right to lead the nation.
The following day, Anwar engaged with Hamas' political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, and announced Malaysia's commitment to providing humanitarian relief. Additionally, he pledged RM100 million in humanitarian aid.
With a strong show of solidarity, Anwar led a massive rally of 16,000 pro-Palestinian supporters in Kuala Lumpur on October 24, 2023, to condemn what he termed as Israel's "barbaric" acts in Gaza. He urged the international community to intervene immediately to end the violence in Gaza and establish a humanitarian corridor to aid the besieged territory.
Anwar's efforts in raising the Palestinian issue extend to the international stage. He has used his diplomatic clout to engage with other world leaders, international organizations, and regional powers. During the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Saudi Arabia on October 18, Anwar expressed Malaysia's unwavering support for the Palestinian people and called for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor and an immediate ceasefire with Hamas.
In his meeting with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Prime minister during the summit, he underlined the importance of the Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia to stop the ongoing war between the Israeli army and Palestinian factions.
Anwar also met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on October 25
and discussed the ongoing conflict in Gaza and the need for a ceasefire. He then met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and discussed the opening of the Rafah crossing to allow the channelling of food, water and medicines to Palestine.
Anwar faces not only external pressures in his public support for Palestine, which he explains has taken place three times, especially from the US but also internal challenges. One of these significant challenges stems from the issue of polarization among Malaysians.
In response to the criticisms that his approach towards the Palestinian cause is too vocal and disregards the non-intervention principle, Anwar stated in his concluding speech for the National Budget on Nov 30, that the Palestinian issue is not exclusive to Muslims but a matter of justice and human rights. According to Anwar, Russia, China, Ireland and Brazil have adopted the same human rights approach.
Anwar Ibrahim's leadership in the Gaza crisis extends beyond religious lines. Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country with a predominantly Muslim population. His ability to bridge religious and ethnic divides will strengthen the country's collective support for the Palestinian people. Balancing foreign policy with domestic sensitivities is a delicate task, and the Prime Minister has diligently navigated this fine line to maintain unity within Malaysia.
Regardless of their religious and racial backgrounds, Malaysians should wholeheartedly support the Palestinian cause, as it has transcended into a humanitarian crisis, with Israel's collective punishments and genocidal attacks on the people of Gaza.
As the world continues to grapple with the complexities of the Middle East conflict, Prime Minister Anwar's leadership exemplifies how a nation's leader can serve as a unifying force for a just and compassionate cause, transcending religious and ethnic divides for the betterment of all humanity.
Dr. Ahmad Badri bin Abdullah is the Deputy CEO of IAIS Malaysia
02 NOV 2023