Anwar Ibrahim’s vision for an inclusive Malaysia

A Review of “SCRIPT: For a Better Malaysia – An Empowering Vision and Policy Framework for Action”

By A. Faizur Rahman

March/April 2023

Anwar hopes to transform Malaysia, a country in which Muslims constitute almost two-thirds of the population. He articulates his vision in his latest book, “SCRIPT: For a Better Malaysia – An Empowering Vision and Policy Framework for Action” (Institut Darul Ehsan, 2022). SCRIPT stands for Sustainability, Care and Compassion, Respect, Innovation, Prosperity and Trust.

Anwar believes that this framework, based on these “six drivers,” is an integrated, holistic endeavor that will lay the foundations for a thriving, dynamic and inclusive society. His policy agenda, he writes, aspires to steer Malaysia through “the complexity, contradictions, and chaos” of what he calls “postnormal times,” citing scholar Ziauddin Sardar.

After outlining these terms’ conventional meanings, Anwar redefines them and enunciates the specific vision behind them, as well as their targeted populations and areas. He also explores the policy requirements for each driver in terms of its economic, legal, institutional, educational, social, cultural and locational needs.

For instance, Anwar’s definition of sustainability is rooted in the Malaysian concepts of kemampanan (collective effort) and keseimbangan (humanity’s well-being).

In this context, he deserves to be commended for reinterpreting fasad and islah in “Do not degrade Earth after it has been so well-ordered” (7:56).This interpretation makes sense, because the next two verses speak of the planet’s natural rejuvenation through winds (riyaha) that distribute heavy rain-bearing clouds (sahaban siwalan) over barren tracts of land (baladin mayyitin).

Anwar’s benign unconventionalism is also evident in his inclusive understanding of “care and compassion,” which he universalizes to include love for not just one’s own community, but also for members of other communities as well. Additionally, he writes, “the right of the society to receive care and compassion is both a duty to give and a right to receive.” 

Anwar’s ultimate intention is to establish financial policies that advocate humane economic models. “To make up for lost time,” he warns, “we must abolish tax concessions and incentives that allow businesses and enterprises to pursue disrespectful practices with ill-regard for past, present, or future human dignity.” He also expresses the need to address the country’s ongoing debt crisis by “refining and reforming loan procedures and reviewing and canceling unjust and disrespectful debts and financial impediments.”

On the legal side, Anwar promises to repeal “draconic and disrespectful laws” that marginalize citizens on the basis of gender, race, religion, creed and lifestyle. And, to convince the world of Malaysia’s honest intentions, he states that “we must initiate a national human rights audit and respect third-party international audits requested of us.” 

His long-standing commitment to religious moderation and democracy is well-known. As far back as December 2005, in an address to the New York Democracy Forum, Anwar listed “freedom of conscience, freedom to speak out against tyranny, a call for reform and the right to property” as being among the Sharia’s higher objectives. In “SCRIPT,” he defines these objectives as “justice grounded in the empowerment of the poor and marginalized.”

In sum, “SCRIPT” is a feasible futuristic document that could put Malaysia on the path to inclusive democracy and economic progress — a task that is easier now that he is its prime minister.

Reviewed by A. Faizur Rahman, secretary-general of the Islamic Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought.

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