Malaysia's Chosen One

Building Kuala Lumpur's Islamic Arts Center, an Arabian gem replete with white marble, rippling fountains and sky blue onion-shaped domes in the middle of Malaysia's tropical capital, was a labor of love for two men. One of them is Malaysia's Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad. Prior to the four-story museum's completion in 1998, Mahathir would regularly show up at the construction site, often after his weekly equestrian sessions. At his side was a skinny, balding businessman named Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary. The two men would pore over blueprints, tour the site to monitor progress and, according to one witness, decide together on changes,...

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