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American Islamism’s Malaysian Prime Minister

- FOCUS ON WESTERN ISLAMISM - Sam Westrop - APRIL 11, 2023 -

Under Islamist Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia now serves as a testing ground for the ideas and ambitions of a powerful American Islamist network based in Virginia. Ibrahim and his Western Islamist backers’ newfound power illustrates an important new trend: the flow of Islamist ideas is reversing direction. In stark contrast to the past, Islamists in the West are no longer reliant on foreign patrons, but are now themselves leading exporters of radicalism to the East.

Malaysian Islamist Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim speaks at an event organized by his office and the Virginia-based Islamist group, IIIT.

In recent months, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has spoken at a steady series of events concerning the threat of “Islamophobia” from the West. Ibrahim’s rhetoric on this issue is not just his own; the language and intellectual arguments around his pronouncements are identical to those advanced by an Islamist network led by the Virginia-based International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) and its Malaysian offshoot, the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).



Indeed, both groups are a consistent presence within Ibrahim’s busy schedule. In February, for instance, the Prime Minister addressed an IIIT conference titled “International Forum on Islamophobia,” organized by the American Islamist organization “in collaboration with [Malaysia’s] Foreign Affairs Ministry and Prime Minister’s Department.”


At the event, Malaysian officials, alongside IIUM speakers, warned of the threat posed to Muslims by freedom of expression. The IIIT conference in February also served to launch a new book on Islamophobia within “popular culture,” written by a Western academic closely involved with both the IIUM and IIIT. The book, produced by a Turkish Islamist publisher controlled by IIIT, features an endorsement on its back from Ibrahim.


Not many prime ministers would be inclined to take time out of their schedules to organize or speak at events with foreign thinktanks about subjects far removed from the everyday concerns of their constituents. And yet this book launch was just one of half a dozen IIIT or IIUM events Ibrahim has spoken at since his appointment as prime minister just five months ago.


The IIUM-IIIT axis is the public face of a powerful close-knit Islamist network that now wields enormous political power. Ibrahim has been involved from the very start. He is, in fact, a founding figure within both institutions. Malaysia’s new prime minister, it seems, is also American Islamism’s new prime minister.

The IIIT-IIUM Network

Anwar Ibrahim co-founded the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in 1981. Often referred to as the leading thinktank of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West, today, the IIIT is just one component of a far-reaching Islamist network in the United States known as the SAAR Network, a vast array of charities and private companies that hold assets of at least half a billion dollars. Indeed, IIIT and other SAAR network entities are among the wealthiest Islamic organizations in America.


IIIT’s Islamism is brazen. A 1989 IIIT document states that “ultimate loyalty to the nation-state is both impossible and blasphemous” for Muslims. Instead, the author advocates for a caliphate, blacklisting Muslims who oppose such theocracy. (In recent years, IIIT has also blacklisted Muslims who criticize the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, ostensibly at the request of Turkish Islamist authorities).


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