26 November, 2016

Kuala Lumpur International Youth Discourse 2016


1. I am very pleased to be with all of you this morning at this inaugural Kuala Lumpur International Youth Discourse 2016.

2. We meet at a time when globalisation has brought economic opportunities and benefits for many around the world, but it has also brought with it social costs that affect young people disproportionately.

3. Younger generations are often unsure about their futures. As the world changes ever-more rapidly, the certainties enjoyed by their parents and grandparents seem to be vanishing.

4. Yes, they lived during decades of far lower prosperity, but the rhythms of life – the steady job, saving to buy a house, and starting a family – mostly seemed safer and more reliable.

5. Today, technological advances are made at an unprecedented rate. Most of you would find it very hard to imagine how life was when I was growing up – yes, I was young once too!

6. We had no DVDs, no personal computers, hardly any TV stations, and of course, there were no mobiles. How did we manage to communicate with each other, you must be asking – with no texts, Whatsapp, Facebook, no selfies to put up on Instagram. Well, we managed somehow…

7. Today, that is our world, but it is particularly your world, as it is the only one you have known. Media proliferates on a multitude of platforms, and the truth can be hard to discern in a blizzard of facts, pseudo-facts, opinions, rumours and misinformation.

8. ICT and media are used to disseminate information, but also to propagate ideologies. This is a major concern when all over the world people are confronted with the relatively recent rise of new forms of transnational extremism and terrorism.

9. The needs, aspirations and protection of youth in this country, in the ASEAN region, in Asia and in the Muslim world, therefore demand a great deal of focus.

10. Today’s discourse is just one part of our ongoing efforts to engage with our youth, to hear their voices and respond to their concerns. We recognise that our young people are one of our most important resources – you are our future.

11. So it is the solemn responsibility of government to do all we can to ensure that the decades that will be yours are underpinned by a prosperous, inclusive, secure and happy society.

Ladies and gentlemen,

12. In 2015, the number of youth in the world – defined as those aged between 15 and 24 – stood at 1.2 billion, or approximately one in every six people. This is the largest proportion of young people the human race has ever known.

13. The developing world contains the greatest numbers of youth, at close to 90 percent of the global total, and 60 percent of youth reside in Asia. In these countries, youth represents between one fifth and one third of their national populations.

14. Such numbers represent a potential “demographic dividend”. Falling mortality and fertility rates, coupled with a larger working population in relation to the dependent population, offer the opportunity for tremendous economic growth and social progress.

Ladies and gentlemen,

15. When the right foundations are in place, we see youth taking their place as respected and valued members of society. We see them make a successful transition from the world of education to the world of employment.

16. We see them driving innovation. We see them pioneering start-ups. We see them championing social causes, the rights of all under the law, and democracy.

17. There are numerous inspirational examples all around us: from the young Malaysian doctor, Mohd Lutfi Fadil Lokman, who started Hospitals Beyond Boundaries, with a mission of building healthcare facilities to serve underprivileged communities;

18. To Ms Shougat Nazbin Khan from Bangladesh, who founded the H.A. Digital School and College to educate and empower disadvantaged rural communities; to 23-year old Vincent Loka from Indonesia, who developed a filtration solution to bring rapid access to clean drinking water in disaster-hit locations.

19. There are countless other young people who are the backbone of corporations, public sector institutions and civil society organisations.

20. However, there can be a downside to a youth bulge. It can also mean increased competition for economic resources, particularly jobs.

21. And in societies where there is high unemployment, underemployment, vulnerable employment or working poverty among youth, it is all too easy for young people to feel disenfranchised, which makes them more vulnerable targets for extremists.

22. When young people feel marginalised, extreme ideologies can give them a sense of purpose, a sense of importance, a sense of identity and belonging. These are false promises.

23. But the vulnerability is real, and irresponsible, immoral terrorist groups know how to exploit it, from Jemaah Islamiya and al Qaeda in the past to Daesh today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

24. As you will be aware, we are far from immune to this problem here in Malaysia. In June, we had the first successful Daesh-linked attack in Puchong, in which eight people were injured.

25. The Royal Malaysia Police have identified over 70 Malaysians who have been foolish enough to go to the Middle East to fight for Daesh. There may be many more who have tragically thrown their lives away for the lies of a group that blasphemes the name of our religion.

26. We should all be grateful to our security services for the tremendous work they have been doing monitoring and uncovering those with links to Daesh.

27. But the numbers of people who have had to be detained for questioning in this regard has been rising. The total over the last four years is 257 people – of which 112 were from this year alone.

28. They are from a variety of backgrounds – it would be a grave mistake to assume that there is only one way that people fall prey to radicalisation – but the majority of them are under 40, users of smartphones and active on social media.

Ladies and gentlemen,

29. We fully recognise the seriousness of this threat, which is why the government has taken a number of steps to address it.

30. We passed the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act or SOSMA, the Special Measures against Terrorism in Foreign Countries Act, the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and the National Security Council Act.

31. This is so we have legislation that allows us to deal with threats promptly and early. In some countries in the past, it was not an offence to support Daesh, nor to travel abroad for terrorist-military training. They have had to rush to bring in new laws.

32. We had already done so in order that the misguided attempts of those who want to bomb, maim and behead can never be placed above the rights of the peaceful majority who firmly reject violence and war.

33. Let me be clear: I make no apology for making the security and safety of all Malaysians my first priority.

34. But we know that prevention is not just a matter of force. We must win hearts and minds as well.

35. So we have set up the Regional Digital Counter-Messaging Centre to synchronise efforts to counter radical social media messages and to present the true image of Islam, within Asean and beyond.

36. We have formulated a special rehabilitation module that has been so successful that it has been translated into three languages – Arabic, English and French – so that other countries can make use of our expertise.

37. Over 100 people have been through a deradicalisation programme we have devised, and out of that 100 only a handful – less than ten – turned back to extremism. The vast majority are working towards building peaceful, constructive lives and have turned their backs on terror.

38. We hosted and facilitated a group of scholars from across the Umma to produce a consensus on what would, and what would not, constitute an Islamic State – and their report makes abundantly clear that there is nothing remotely Islamic about the group that shamelessly dares use that name.

39. And we have supported and placed a new emphasis on wasatiyyah, the Quranic injunction of moderation. Indeed, the first Asean Wasatiyyah Conference has just been held here in Kuala Lumpur, jointly organised by the Armed Forces and the Wasatiyyah Institute Malaysia.

40. I called for a Global Movement of Moderates at the United Nations General Assembly in 2010, and the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation we founded in our capital city has won acclaim for its work, in the region and beyond.

41. This is our tradition. This is our heritage. The moderate Islam that we have always practised, and the tolerance we have shown to our fellow citizens of other faiths, must be upheld.

42. For, historically speaking, Islam found fertile soil within our region not only because it rationally appealed to us. It was also expressive of our practiced nature, fitting with the Quranic definition of Islam as the religion of human nature – din al-fitrah in Arabic.

43. And because in this region we are by nature nonviolent, peaceful and moderate, our practice of Islam most perfectly expresses Islam’s self-definition as a religion of peace and moderation.

44. We have internalised the Quranic imperative in verse 49:13, that God created us from one male and one female, and fashioned us into various nations and tribes so that we should come to know one another; so that we should celebrate our diversity by upholding peace, harmony, social justice and respect for all, Muslim and non Muslim.

45. We need to re-emphasise that this is the true Islam. We must say again and again, loudly and clearly – through our interactions, through social media, through television, and through our religious teachers, that Muslims are commanded to follow the example – the Sunnah – of the Prophet Muhammad.

46. The Quran is unequivocal about this. It states that “We did not send you except as a mercy to the worlds”. And since we are commanded to follow the Prophet’s Sunnah, we too must not be anything but a mercy to the worlds. Otherwise we are violating the Sunnah of the Prophet. Which is what these criminals are doing.

47. Moreover, the Prophet said “I was not sent except to perfect the nobility of good behaviour” [in Arabic: wa maa bu`ith-tu illa li-utammima makaarim il-akhlaaq]. We too should be noble and perfect in our behaviour [akhlaaq].

48. Thus it is absurd to suggest that Islam preaches the kind of blind, rampaging militancy we now witness. It is only those who lack knowledge about Islam, or who have been persuaded by the sometimes seductive power of extremism, who believe that.

49. Many of the people who have committed terrorist acts on behalf of Daesh were known for their lack of devotion, but were then rapidly radicalised, allowing their anger and frustration to be channelled by a perverted message. Some who travelled to join Daesh actually bought copies of a book titled “Islam for Dummies”.

50. That sounds like a joke. But it is a hollow, bitter one, that has destroyed the lives of too many.

51. The true, authentic Islam would have corrected them. It would have told them that committing atrocities for Daesh will not redeem their past, sinful lives.

52. The true, authentic Islam has built civilisations that were the glory of the world. They were citadels of learning and tolerance, where Muslim, Christian and Jew lived and worked, side by side, in harmony.

53. You know this. And we need you, our young people, to spread this message so that your brothers and sisters are not led astray, away from the path of peace and love that is the true Islam, and into darkness and violence.

54. We need your support and participation, which is why I am glad to see so many of you here today to share your thoughts, and to discuss ways to forge even better partnerships between government and youth to ensure we remain on the path of peace and harmony.

Ladies and gentlemen,

55. I mentioned earlier issues around unemployment, working poverty, disenfranchisement and marginalisation among the young, and how these can be paths to radicalisation.

56. We know that young people need channels and opportunities to improve themselves and ensure that no one is left behind, including by the forces of globalisation.

57. These issues are also addressed by the plan we put in place after I took office, to reach high income nation status by 2020. We are on track, and continue to attract the investments we need to keep our economy growing and provide the new jobs and high-skilled training that are necessary for our young people.

58. I outlined many measures to help Malaysia’s youth in the Budget last month. These included extending the 1Malaysia Training Scheme for graduates, to enhance employability.

59. I announced plans to make first homes more affordable, and to build new houses where young people entering the job market can rent – at below the market rate – until they are financially strong enough to buy.

60. I announced tax deductions for companies to support internships for students and new funds for the Skills Development Fund Corporation.

61. Those are just a few, as all in all, billions have been allocated towards enhancing education at all levels, skills- and capacity-building programmes, entrepreneur development and digital connectivity improvements.

62. And, most importantly, I announced the 2050 National Transformation Plan, or TN50. This will be led by a national discourse of our young people.

63. It is your future, and we want you to have your full say in how we chart it, and how we take the nation up the ladders of creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship, scientific discovery, technological prowess, environmental protection and institutional strengthening.

Ladies and gentlemen,

64. We take the views and development of our youth very seriously, and I applaud the dedication and optimism shown by our young people in so many areas. The Youth Parliament that was held in August was just one example. The thoughtfulness and leadership that was on display there was very impressive.

65. Through the interactive sessions you will be holding today, we look forward to receiving your valuable inputs.

66. I encourage all of you to participate and engage fully, make new connections, and learn from other participants while sharing your ideas. Make your voices heard and give us the opportunity to learn from you.

67. We will listen – that’s a promise!

Ladies and gentlemen,

68. God tells the Prophet’s community in verse 3:110: kuntum khayra ummatin ukhrijat li-nnaas; ta’muruuna bil-ma`ruf wa tanhauna `anil-munkar, wa tu’minuna billaah.

69. Which means, “You are the best community that has emerged of humankind; you champion the common good, you forbid the wrong and you believe in God.”

70. My vision for Malaysia is that we become the best community, the khayra ummah, of our age. Help us to realise that most valuable of prizes – to be the best community in God’s eyes.

71. That, now, is my challenge to you.

72. May God bless you in your endeavours.

73. With that, I wish you all a very successful day.

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