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Friday, Sept 11
Thousands flood to mosque in support of ousted deputy

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Thousands of Muslims flooded a mosque Friday shouting support for ousted deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim. He shouted back: ''If one Anwar falls, one thousand others will rise up!''

Anwar, sacked as deputy and finance minister last week on allegations of sexual misconduct, took another step in what he vows will be a nationwide political reform campaign by attending prayers at the mosque in Kampong Baru.

Some 10,000 people flooded the working-class Malay enclave -- the flashpoint of deadly racial riots in 1969 -- to demonstrate support for the banished minister.

When Anwar exited the mosque, the crowd erupted in chants of ''Allah Akbar!'' -- the Muslim rally cry meaning ''God is Great!'' -- punching their fists to the sky. Many had laid prayer mats on the ground outside the tightly packed mosque.

Despite official warnings to keep politics out of the mosque, supporters distributed anti-government pamphlets entitled, ''Justice For Anwar.'' Vendors sold cassettes of Anwar's latest speeches, in which he asserts his innocence and calls for political reform.

''Do I fear?'' Anwar shouted at the mob. ''No! I will fight on. Use the police, use the judges, use the courts. I will never surrender -- I will never surrender.''

The crowd shouted back: ''We will never surrender!''

Anwar, dressed in a prayer cap and blue prayer garment with a sarong tied around his waist, yelled through a megaphone from the top of the mosque steps. Mosque officials had banned him from using their public address system, on instructions from the government-controlled Islamic Center.

Dozens of police quietly looked on.

''They are terrified of me,'' Anwar shouted, referring to the government. ''Because of my religious and nationalistic principles. They don't want us to use this mosque, but this mosque has a place in history. Let us use this mosque as a starting point to fight injustice.''

Traditionally, the mosque at Kampong Baru has been a gathering place for conservative Muslims and Islamic teachers to debate religious policy and push for more Islamic influence over the government.

Protesters in the 1980s held vigils at the mosque when the country's chief justice was sacked over differences with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Anwar was scheduled Saturday to visit Mahathir's hometown and several villages in northern Malaysia, the same villages where he led demonstrations for poor farmers during his radical student days. One of those protests led to Anwar's arrest in 1974 and 22 months detained under the Internal Security Act, which allows for arrest without trial if suspects are deemed a threat to national security.

An aide to Anwar, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Friday his strategy was to reach out to conservative Muslims frustrated by Mahathir's ''secularized Islam.''

Malaysia, which is predominantly Muslim, has maintained a degree of separation between mosque and state. Though 60 percent of the population are indigenous Malays, the other 40 percent are ethnic Chinese and Indians, most of whom are Buddhists, Christians and Hindus.

Mahathir sacked Anwar last week, saying that he had conducted his own investigation and determined that his handpicked successor was immoral and unfit to lead.

Mahathir Thursday said the police were still investigating the charges laid out in a book, entitled, ''50 Reasons Why Anwar Shouldn't be PM.''

''I'm quite sure when they have sufficient evidence, they will charge him in court,'' the prime minister said.

Malaysia's top police chief said Thursday the probe into eight sexual misconduct charges against Anwar had reached its final stages and criminal charges could soon be filed.

Anwar has vehemently denied the charges, saying they were trumped up to sap his growing challenge to Mahathir's 17-year rule. Thousands of supporters have gathered at his house each night to listen to his charismatic claims of innocence and demands for political reforms.

Mashar, a student at a local university who has virtually camped out at Anwar's residence, said many were prepared to face arrest on his behalf.

''While there's no justice, we'll fight on,'' said Mashar, who asked that his full name not be used. ''If Anwar is arrested under ISA, we have planned for it. If he goes to prison, we will go with him. We need to be brave.''