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Tuesday, March 20, 2012
  • Salman Rushdie Anwar Ibrahim
Controversial author Salman Rushdie's attendance at a forum in India prompted Anwar Ibrahim to announce he was pulling out of the forum. (Graphic by Dayang Norazhar/The Mole)

KUALA LUMPUR: Was Anwar lying, or was he just misunderstood? This is the question being asked regarding the opposition leader's attendance at a forum in Delhi, India, at which controversial author Salman Rushdie also appeared albeit on different days.

 

Anwar gave a speech at the India Today Conclave 2012 forum, which had as its theme 'The Asian Century: Securing the Global Promise' and was held on March 16 and 17 in Delhi.

 

Anwar's speech on the first day of the forum, was entitled 'From Dictatorship to Democracy: The Triumph of the People'.

 

Controversial author Salman Rushdie, who spent years in hiding after his book The Satanic Verses was denounced by Muslim clerics, spoke on the second day of the forum.

 

Pakistani politician and former cricketer Imran Khan had pulled out earlier. Khan said he could not attend the forum because Rushdie had "caused immeasurable hurt to Muslims".

 

On March 16, Anwar announced on Twitter that he would also be staying away from the forum in protest of Rushdie's attendance.

 

"Azizah and I will not attend tomorrow evening’s programme," he wrote, "in protest of the attendance of Salman Rushdie, who rudely insulted the Prophet."

 

Anwar's decision was praised by one pro-opposition blogger, who called pulling out of the forum "the right step".

 

Pas' official party organ Harakah Daily also took note of Anwar's statement and said he was "the latest Muslim leader to stay away from a weekend forum in the Indian capital due to the participation of blasphemous British-Indian writer Salman Rushdie".

 

Anwar did not "stay away" from the forum, however.

 

Today (March 19) blogger Pisau.net pointed out a March 16 article in Britain's Daily Mail which reported that Anwar had in fact spoken at the forum. 

 

The article quoted Anwar as saying, "When I talk about democracy, I talk with passion and conviction because I know what it means not to be free. I know how it feels to be tried by a judiciary that is under the executive."

Another blogger, RBF Online, posted photos that appear to show Anwar and Rushdie speaking separately at the forum.

 

Blogger MyKMU criticised Anwar for attending the forum and asked, "When will Pas hold a demonstration in protest of Anwar's readiness to attend an event that would also be attended by Satanic Salman?"

 

A post in Anwar Ibrahim's blog today indicated that Anwar had never claimed he would not attend the forum at all, but rather that he would not attend on the second day when Rushdie was scheduled to speak.

 

The post said that the issue of Salman Rushdie was “the Umno media’s choice in their ongoing efforts to attack the personal character of Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim. The presence of Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim at the invitation of the India Today Conclave 2012 organisers on 16 March, 2012 has been manipulated due to the presence of Salman Rushdie."

 

“Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim had a different slot from Salman and he was invited to speak the day before the slot featuring Salman,” the post said.

“Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim boycotted the event involving Salman Rushdie  the next day, on 17 March 2012," the post added, "as a sign of protest against the latter’s controversial writings which personally insulted the Prophet SAW.”