by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com (12-20-11)
COMMENT Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izaah Anwar once offered the view that if her father had not become a politician he would have been a teacher.
That hypothesis gains credence as Anwar Ibrahim intensifies an already hectic campaign schedule, what with a critical High Court verdict in Sodomy II pending and a general election imminent.
The oscillations between being a politician and pedagogue are more evident now than before as the PKR supremo senses he is at a pivotal moment in his career.
From the way he channels Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left in photo) and Rajmohan Gandhi in his campaign speeches to audiences that occupy the range between labouring class and the intelligentsia, it is quite clear that, both as politician and guru, Anwar has achieved a clarity of mission and message that puts one in mind of what Dr Samuel Johnson said about concentration.
The latter held that if man knows he is going to hang in two weeks, it concentrates the mind wonderfully.
The content of Anwar's speeches these days is focused, with laser-like sharpness, on what he feels the people who have come to hear him want to know about what would happen if he goes to jail as a result of Sodomy II.
To dispel their misgivings about a future in which he could be in gaol, he channels Erdogan, his friend and Turkey's Prime Minister.
Anwar tells them that Erdogan went from jail to being Prime Minister of Turkey. "They had an election after they put him in jail. His party won the election and Erdogan went from jail to being Prime Minister," said Anwar, reassuringly, to the crowd that turned up in Paya Besar, Kedah, to his campaign stops last Sunday.
The Erdogan story is crucial to the core message of Anwar's career: he feels that the Turkish leader and he are comrades-in-arms in the struggle to show that Islam is compatible with democracy.
Invitation from Gandhi's grandson
Usually, Anwar eases the knowledge that he could go to jail on his audience by telling them something of how he spent his time the last occasion he was incarcerated (1998-2004).
If it is a Malay audience, he talks of the Islamic books he had read while gaoled; if Chinese, he speaks about what he understood of Confucius' teachings (he takes care to enunciate the name in its Mandarin intonation, always an applause-winning turn); and if Indian, he channels Gandhi and through the Indian independence fighter, he mentions Nelson Mandela.
Gandhi, he cites frequently these days, but it is not the father of Indian independence, but his grandson, Rajmohan, like Erdogan, a friend of Anwar's.
Rajmohan (left) has invited Anwar to Mumbai for a conference that is to be held about the time justice Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah is to deliver judgment in Sodomy II on Jan 9.
Rajmohan is a publicist for Gandhian ideals, specifically the one about telling truth to power.
As long ago as September 19, Anwar told a largely Malay audience in Jelapang, Ipoh, that Rajmohan had SMS-ed an invitation to him to deliver the keynote address at the conference scheduled for January.
To mainly Muslim audiences, Anwar emphasises Rajmohan's religion (‘dia Hindu'), as if to say that he, a card-carrying Muslim, is deemed important enough for the torchbearer-grandson of the celebrated Mahatma to deliver a key message to a conference on the necessity of telling truth to power.
"I will be at the High Court to hear the judgment and then see if I can proceed to Mumbai later that day to attend the conference," Anwar tells the crowd, by now attuned to the global-grappling presence of the speaker.
The message is subtly semaphored: Anwar's domestic travails are a detour - inconvenient though - from his main mission as the Pied Piper of political reform and of Islam's computability with democracy.
By bringing up Erdogan's experience of jail before his installation as PM of Turkey, Anwar conveys to the crowds that Sungai Buloh would well be the penultimate station on a personal odyssey that has had Putrajaya as its logical culmination.