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Saturday, Sept 12
Sacked deputy PM takes his campaign on the road
By ALVIN UNG (Associated Press)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Ousted deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim prepared to take his political roadshow north on Saturday, driving to his hometown for a rally that could provoke police.

Anwar and a dozen supporters gathered their vehicles at his home in a Kuala Lumpur suburb, set for the convoy to Penang state in northwestern Malaysia.

Though he's skirted arrest for the last week by rallying thousands of supporters on his own property, Anwar intends to address a public rally in Penang later Saturday.

Political rallies are illegal in this Southeast Asian nation without a police permit; Anwar doesn't have one.

''We are driving for freedom. We are driving for Malaysia,'' said Zaki Abdul Rasid, a retired army captain, pointing to the tiny Malaysian flag on his Mercedes-Benz dashboard.

Anwar was sacked by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad as his deputy and finance minister on Sept. 2 on allegations of sexual misconduct. Police are investigating eight criminal charges against him and say he could face arrest.

Anwar has vehemently denied all allegations, saying they were crafted by his former mentor to undermine his growing popularity and challenge to Mahathir's 17-year rule.

Anwar, 51, appears to be courting conservative Muslims often at odds with Mahathir's secular rule.

On Friday, he attended prayers at a mosque at Kampong Baru, traditionally a gathering place for Islamic scholars to debate religious policy and push for more Islamic influence over the government.

Some 10,000 supporters gathered at the mosque to cheer him on.

''They are terrified of me because of my religious and nationalistic principles,'' Anwar shouted to the crowd.

On Friday night, Anwar visited well-known Islamic scholar Harun Din, banned from weekly televised religious shows as his views were seen by the government as too extreme.

Anwar did not address some 8,000 supporters who arrived at Harun's house in Bangi, 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of the capital. Harun told the crowd he was warned by police that Anwar would be arrested if he spoke.

The crowd was peaceful as dozens of police directed traffic but did not interfere.

A half-dozen Malay businessmen stood arm in arm and shouted, ''Mahathir is a museum piece -- he belongs in the national archive.''

An aide to Anwar told The AP Friday that Anwar's strategy was to reach out to conservative Muslims frustrated by Mahathir's ''secularized Islam.''

Malaysia has maintained stability since independence from Britain in 1957, due in part, the government says, to a degree of separation between mosque and state. Though 60 percent of the population are indigenous Malays, who are Muslims, the other 40 percent are ethnic Chinese and Indians, most of whom are Buddhists, Christians and Hindus.

Haji Abdul Rahman, a retired civil servant, stood outside Harun's house Friday night.

''Now that he has endorsed Anwar, he will influence everybody,'' Haji Abdul said. ''It's going to be a long battle. They can use all the tricks to muzzle him, but the message will reach the people.''