NEW YORK, February 9, 2011 – The US should actively support the burgeoning democratic movements in Egypt and throughout the Muslim world, argues Anwar Ibrahim, who sees American support for embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the context of a larger "policy of ambivalence."
"You talk about democracy and freedom; you support autocrats and dictators," said the former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia.
"I'm not suggesting the Americans send troops. I've always consistently opposed the sending of troops.
"But you have to take a position—like [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan. His position is clear: when it comes to the people against the corrupt, repressive rulers, you must be with the people. That is what we stand for. You use the term 'inalienable rights,' but when it comes to some communities you can compromise."
Ibrahim, who many feel has been unfairly persecuted by the Malaysian government because of his calls for democratic reform, was joined in conversation by Asia Society Associate Fellow Ann Marie Murphy, who is Associate Professor at Seton Hall University's John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations and adjunct research scholar at Columbia University's Weatherhead East Asian Institute.
The implications of the Egyptian uprising for the entire Muslim world are enormous, according to Ibrahim, who noted that "no Muslim country, from Pakistan to Indonesia, Malaysia, South Thailand, or South Philippines, did not produce thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of graduates from Egypt."
Ibrahim denied that the revolts in Egypt and elsewhere were being hijacked by radical Islamists, as some in the West fear.
"Let us be clear that these initial revolutions, be they in Tunisia or Egypt, are quite spontaneous. They are popular movements. You can't say that they are either Islamic or secular movements; they are just peoples' movements, and the issues are clear: they want to rid their country of decadent, corrupt, repressive rulers. They want democracy and freedom, and of course more transparent policies that guarantee their welfare and economic well-being. The basic issues are still economic."