Born in Malaysia in August 1947, Anwar Ibrahim was heavily influenced, from an early age, by the teachings of Sayyid Qutb and Maulana Maududi, the ideological fathers of the Muslim Brotherhood. A radical Muslim student leader in the late 1960s, Ibrahim rose to considerable prominence in 1971 when he founded an organization called Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM), known in English as the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement. Highly critical of the West, ABIM urged young Muslims to embrace Islamic fundamentalist tenets and principles as enshrined in the Quran and the Sunnah. In 1974 Ibrahim was arrested for participating in student protests against rural poverty and hunger, and he subsequently spent 20 months in a Malaysian prison.
At a 1979 ABIM meeting, Ibrahim delivered a speech outlining the direction in which he wished to lead the organization. “It is our conviction,” he said, “that if all parties concerned are sincere and serious about understanding Islam, its concepts and principles, they will accept Islam as the only practicable and viable alternative to the present order.” To achieve this goal, Ibrahim proposed that “[s]chools, especially institutions of higher learning, must be encouraged to cultivate the spirit of Islamic universalism to break down the present communal barriers.”
In 1981 Ibrahim co-founded the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a Virginia-based front group of the Muslim Brotherhood. That same year, he joined the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), Malaysia’s ruling political party. UMNO was led by the country’s recently elected Prime Minister, Mahathir bin Mohamad, and it actively promoted Malay-Muslim rule over all other races.
In 1983 Ibrahim became Malaysia’s Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports. The following year he was elected Leader of UMNO Youth and was appointed as the nation’s Minister of Agriculture. In 1986 he became UMNO’s Vice President as well as Malaysia’s Minister of Education. In 1991 he was named Minister of Finance, and two years later he became Mahathir’s Deputy Prime Minister.
As the nineties progressed, Ibrahim appeared to be Mahathir’s heir apparent, frequently alluding in public to his “son-father” relationship with the Prime Minister. When Mahathir took a two-month holiday in 1997, he appointed Ibrahim to serve as acting Prime Minister during his absence.
As the the decade drew to a close, however, Ibrahim’s relationship with Mahathir began to deteriorate due to political differences that emerged. Thus, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, Mahathir in 1998 engineered “a blatantly political fix-up” and had his younger rival arrested on corruption and sodomy charges. Convicted, Ibrahim spent six years in jail before a review court overturned the sentence and set him free in 2004.
During his incarceration, Ibrahim maintained mail correspondence with fellow IIIT director Abdul Hamid Abu Sulaiman, who was a former Rector of the International Islamic University of Malaysia. When Sulaiman became Rector of Islamic University of Kuala Lumpur, he aggressively worked to Islamize the university’s curriculum — introducing Islamic Law and Jurisprudence as compulsory courses.
In 2003 Ibrahim and his family were the beneficiaries of an apparent tax fraud perpetrated by IIIT. According to its own tax filings for that year, IIIT made $92,200 in contributions to Ibrahim’s daughter, Nurul Izzah. Where it listed the donations to Izzah on the tax forms, IIIT violated U.S. law by indicating “none” under the heading “Donee’s Relationship.” The group would have lost its tax-exempt status had it been known that it was sending money to the family member of a director. Ibrahim never disavowed this act when given the chance and even stated explicitly that these contributions were made for the education of his six children.
At a 2005 ABIM conference in Malaysia, Dr. Ahmad Totonji — IIIT’s Vice President and a co-founder of a Saudi-financed Islamic charity with ties to the SAAR Foundation and al Qaeda — praised Ibrahim’s efforts to promote Islamic rule in his homeland: “We have changed the world. I first came to Malaysia in 1970 and was met by Br[other] Anwar…. I am glad to see sisters everywhere in Malaysia today wearing [the] [hijab]. We have made a better world for Muslims.” Totonji further congratulated Ibrahim for his success in disguising his underlying desire to replace Malaysia’s parliamentary democracy with a system based on Sharia Law: “It was wise not to involve ABIM in the political work, it was wise to keep daawah [proselytization] separate from politics.”
Returning to the political arena in time for Malaysia’s 2008 general election, Ibrahim led the Opposition Coalition to winning more parliamentary seats than ever before, though not enough to defeat the UMNO. Later that year, new charges of sodomy were brought against Ibrahim. As of September 2011, they had not yet been adjudicated.
On numerous occasions, Ibrahim has expressed anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views. A few days after the Israeli seizure of the terrorist-laden Free Gaza Movement flotilla in May 2010, for instance, he led a chanting protest mob of thousands in front of the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. “Israelis are able to continue with their aggression because of the soft position taken by the [American] President,” Ibrahim declared. Three days later, in the Malaysian parliament, he said: “Israel wouldn’t dare to attack the flotilla and set up blockades in Gaza without the support of America.”
When Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2010 decided to cut off oil supplies to an Iran which was seeking nuclear weapons, Ibrahim stood in the legislature to charge that a “Jewish-controlled” public-relations firm hired by Razak was covertly working to manipulate Malaysian policy on America’s behalf. “How can our foreign policy have changed [so] dramatically?” Ibrahim demanded. “Our policy on Iran shows how weak we are. Unprecedented in the history of our country, even Mahathir Mohamad himself never shifted in Afghanistan and the Palestinian question.”