Anwar’s Islamic Conference a Month After Dr M’s KL Summit

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Four speakers in the prominent line-up.

Anwar Ibrahim has gathered a group of Muslim scholars seen as more “theologically aligned” with Saudi Arabia for an international conference in Kuala Lumpur this month, viewed as the PKR chief’s response to the KL Summit shunned by Riyadh and its allies.

The main organiser of the conference, called International Unity in Diversity Conference 2020 (IUDC), is the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT).

IIIT is a US-based Muslim institute whose members include university academics long associated with Anwar, who now chairs the institute.

Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim) is a co-organiser of the Jan 8 conference, alongside the Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF), another Ikhwan-influenced network whose active members once included none other than former education minister Maszlee Malik.

Abim was a once firebrand group led by Anwar before he was brought into Umno by Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the early 1980s.

The conference, like the KL Summit, also states “contemporary issues of affecting the Muslim world” as its theme.

Anwar is listed as the keynote speaker in the upcoming conference that also includes three others seen favourably in the West.

Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera

Anwar’s eldest daughter MP Nurul Izzah is listed as moderator for a panel discussion featuring three of the listed speakers.

The Permatang Pauh MP has largely withdrawn from the public eye after her abrupt resignation from all PKR and government posts in 2018.

Opening the IUDC will be Nuruddin Lemu, director of Research and Training at the Da’wah Institute of Nigeria (DIN), Islamic Education Trust (IET) in Minna, Nigeria.

According to a synopsis provided in the website promoting the event, Lemu whose first name is also spelt Nurudeen is an internationally sought-after Islamic trainer nicknamed “Nuru the Guru” and has been conducting workshops in Malaysia for the past 20 years. He is known for his talks advocating interfaith dialogue and intrafaith cooperation as well as responses to various forms of religious extremism among Muslims.

Lemu is scheduled to speak on “Islam in the 21st Century: Drawing Parallels between Muslim Experiences Worldwide.”

The second speaker is Omar Suleiman, who founded and is president and CEO of Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, another US-based Islamic think-tank established in 2016. His topic for the one-day conference is on “Correcting the Narrative on Islam in the Fast-Changing World of Digital Media”.

The third speaker is Pakistani-American Muslim scholar Yasir Qadhi whose topic is on “Islamic Discourse – Future Trends and Challenges for the Ummah.”

Yasir is currently resident scholar of the East Plano Islamic Centre and also the Dean of The Islamic Seminary of America, an institution that serves to better the Muslim world through religious scholarship and ethical leadership.

The UIDC is scheduled to be held at the Sime Darby Convention Centre in Bukit Kiara from 8.30am to 2pm on January 8.


The conference comes even as the dust has barely settled from last month’s Mahathir-backed KL Summit, which went ahead despite Saudi displeasure.

Riyadh was incensed that Mahathir had invited its three most vocal critics: Turkey, Qatar and Iran, all of whom sent their heads of state.

It was also reported that the conference appeared to have snubbed Anwar, who was not listed as a speaker despite his past Islamic credentials.

“Anwar would prefer to be in the company of so-called progressive salafists, especially in the wake of the fallout between the Saudis and Qatar,” a former Abim official was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, the source said the conference would not be the first time that Anwar has countered a gathering that featured Mahathir.

“Just two weeks after Mahathir graced the Malay Dignity Congress in October, Anwar had his own gathering but themed on diversity,” he said, referring to an event titled “Seminar Pembinaan Bangsa Malaysia” on Oct 26 last year.