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Islam’s dialogue with the West

Updated On: Jan 26, 2007

Malaysian Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi, a symbol of moderation, an Islamic scholar, and a promoter of progressive Islam, made an appeal for Islamic communities around the world to put an end to militancy, and urge the West open a genuine dialogue with Muslims so that moderate Islam will prevail.

In his speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, Prime Minister Badawi was promoting his own doctrine in Islam: "It is with this in mind, and to foster the greater development of Muslims and Malaysians, that I have introduced what I call Islam Hadhari, or civilisational Islam to my fellow Malaysians...Islam Hadhari demonstrates the compatibility of the noble values and injunctions of Islam with the demands of healthy modernity". Through preaching his Islam Hadhari, the Prime Minister hopes that Malaysia will be the first to practice it and in the process showcase  Malaysia as a working model for Islamic moderation throughout the Muslim world.

Condemning the Muslim extremists, Abdullah said: "They keep Muslims in a state of under-development and backwardness. They preach intolerance of other faiths and forbid fraternisation with non-Muslims… They deny women a place of dignity in society, and a few of them distort the teachings of Islam and the meaning of jihad...They incite violent attacks against not only foreign military forces that are considered to have harmed Muslims but also innocent civilians as well".

At the same time, he was also quick to chide the West for the unnecessary war in Iraq and for not doing enough to resolve the Palestinian problem.  He also singled out these two issues as further fuelling the divide between Islam and the West. 

While Badawi is in the West calling for moderation and dialogue, Danish Foreign Minister, Per Stig Moller,  is now in Malaysia to repair ties with Muslim countries a year after the cartoons controversy.  The cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad were first published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and poor handling of the situation then resulted in massive protests across the Muslim world. 

During the outburst over the cartoons, Malaysia played a big role in mediation after Syed HamidMalaysia’s Foreign Minister, was asked to step into the fray by Moller to promote reconciliation between Europe and the Islamic world and also to calm down Muslim anger against the Scandinavian country. Malaysia’s help was crucial then because it is chairing the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference. This visit is seen as returning gratitude for KL’s help then.   Moller would also be visiting Indonesia in his Southeast Asian tour, and said that Denmark wants healthy relations with Muslim nations and to develop more economic and social links. 

While dialogue indeed needs to go on between Islam and the West, Malaysia has recently witnessed increasing racial and religious tensions within its own society. Race relations, in particular have become an issues that Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has described the situation as “fragile”. 

As part of the education to address some of the racial issues, the government has come out with a new handbook for university students to “inform students, and to help them make sense of the bits and pieces of history to better understand race relations in proper context”. 

Last year, the government also launched a five-year National Unity Plan which focused on strengthening multi-racial neighbourhood organisations and school clubs.

Sources:

PM asks world to stop forces of extremism (New Straits Times, 24 January 2007)

Muslim and Western worlds should work together, says Pak Lah (The Star, 24 January 2007)

Press Release of the Working Visit of His Excellency Dr. Per Stig Moller, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark to Malaysia, 23-25 January 2007 (Malaysia Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 23-25 January 2007)

Denmark foreign minister to visit Malaysia to boost ties (AP, 19 January 2007)

Zero tolerance for terrorism, urges Abdullah (The Straits Times, 25 January 2007)

Controversial varsity guide on racial ties tone done (The Straits Times, 25 January 2007)