12 October, 2010

Wasatiyyah and the Global Movement of the Moderates


As some of you already know, I recently returned from productive trips to New York and Brussels where I participated in important discussions with other world leaders and business communities.  In the US, I spoke at the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly (“UNGA”) and the US-ASEAN Summit.  After a brief return to Malaysia for a few days, it was off to Belgium for the Asia-Europe Summit of Heads of State and Government (“ASEM 8”).

At the UNGA, I addressed the current global perception of Islam, a subject that I had often raised while addressing the Malaysian public.  I shared with those in attendance that being moderate is a pillar of Islam and that we can help foster greater understanding between the Muslim community and the rest of the world. During my Hari Raya address to the nation as well as at the celebrations of Malaysia Day weeks ago, I shared with all of you how wasatiyyah – pertengahan, or its closest English meaning, moderation – can play a role in nation building such as in Malaysia. Wasatiyyah is central to the Islamic tradition of mutual justice and our country has long practiced it in managing a heterogeneous society. We have benefitted from it thus far.

I highlighted that while growing attempts to perpetuate Islamophobia is a genuine concern, a solution is needed to stifle the vulgar voices of extremists dwelling in the periphery regardless of any religion. Hence, I called for one: to build a “Global Movement of the Moderates” that would span all faiths to ultimately marginalise today’s extremists. I have repeatedly stated that we the moderates must be able to take the centre stage of the world again – let our voices of moderation be heard. Such a movement would reclaim the agenda for peace and pragmatism in today’s world.

For guidance, I offered Malaysia as an example of a successful multi-racial, multi-cultural and democratic nation. We can be proud that amidst extreme displays of intolerance experienced in the global landscape, our country remains peaceful and tolerant, where places of worship are free to co-exist, governed by the Constitution, and where cultural differences are celebrated rather than feared, as encouraged by the principles of Islam.  Our 1Malaysia vision to forge a stronger Malaysia out of diversity, can allow us to adopt a leadership role to help bring about a more harmonious world.

I also took the opportunity to continue sharing this concept while addressing issues such as economics and financial integration at the 8th ASEM Meeting held amongst 47 nations in Brussels on 4-5 October. Once again, this idea was well received by leaders of other nations and was included in the EU President’s closing remarks. Based on their response, I believe that Malaysians should be proud that our model of unity in diversity is lauded by other countries.

What are your thoughts on how to banish extremists to the sidelines?  Do you feel that 1Malaysia principles can be applied successfully on an international scale?

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