An Islamic studies centre in Jordan has just named Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as 2019’s most influential Muslim man.
The 2019 edition of the The Muslim 500 – a ranking of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims – listed the PM in 44th place, and also crowned him “Muslim Man of the Year”.
It is Mahathir’s first appearance on the list, which has been published annually by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman since 2009.
Among other criteria, nominees must possess the power to change the Muslim world and have positively represented Islam to the non-Muslim community.
In his remarks on the Muslim Man and Woman of the Year, Muslim 500 chief editor S Abdallah Schleifer called Mahathir an “extraordinary man”, noting his 70-year political career, two-time position as Prime Minister, and his record as the world’s oldest sitting head of government.
“Not bad for a 93-year-old politician with a history of two heart attacks and one bypass surgery,” the editor said.
Mahathir’s other achievements include his New Economic Policy, implemented from the 1970s to 1990s, which successfully ended the poverty that “overwhelmingly plagued Malays” after exercising “positive discrimination” toward them, he added.
Mahathir’s write-up in the publication also acknowledged his “miraculous victory” over Barisan Nasional and subsequent rise to PM, with the “understanding that if successful, he would pardon Anwar Ibrahim and hand over the role to him”.
Mahathir himself has said he will respect this promise to hand over the premiership to Anwar after two years, despite calls from some members of the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (Bersatu) for him to keep the post until the next elections, the Star reported.
Calling himself an “old” and “temporary” Prime Minister, Mahathir said at Bersatu’s annual general meeting on Sunday (Dec 30) that he had only won the position thanks to the Pakatan Harapan coalition.
“When we were in the opposition and wanted to get rid of the kleptocrats, we knew we could not do it with only the Malay votes… we only won because we had a coalition,” The Star quoted him as saying.
He added that the condition for the formation of the coalition was his two-year limit as PM.
“I had to accept the condition to get rid of Najib… That is why sometimes we hugged our sworn enemies and sat together. It was weird to see me with my old enemies, but because we were willing to accept that small condition, we won,” he added.
The Muslim Woman of the Year was Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian teenager whose slapping and kicking of an invading Israeli soldier was caught on video and went viral online. She was subsequently sentenced to eight months in jail.
Also on the Muslim 500 list were Indonesia President Joko Widodo (16th place), Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan (29th place) and Singapore President Halimah Yacob (41st place).