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Islam not a hindrance to harmony and progress in Southeast Asia

Updated On: Jul 28, 2006

Malaysia is urging religious tolerance in its multiracial society and calling on neighboring Indonesia to dispel wrong notions of Islam in the West and to make a common stand on global issues concerning Muslims and Islam.

According to Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, misperception by Western opinion-makers had influence their governments so much that they see the Islamic world as an adversary rather than a partner for peace and progress. “Their world view has been clouded by something which is nothing more than a myth,” he said.

He reassured that Islam is a tolerant religion and not an obstacle to progress and modernity by propagating ‘Islam Hadhari’ or ‘civilisational Islam’ and would work with Indonesia to demonstrate their readiness to be part and parcel of the process of globalization.

Malaysian PM Badawi had earlier stressed the good ties between Indonesia (the biggest Muslim country in the world) and Malaysia not just because of their proximity but also the fact that both countries understood each other’s principles. “Susilo and I have established good brotherhood,” he said as he referred toIndonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Both countries are also working with other Islamic nations and Asean and have called for dialogues between the Islamic world and the west including forums such as the United Nations.

Ironically, within its own domestic arena, PM Badawi who is also the Internal Security Minister, has warned Malaysians to stop the discussion of Islam or other religious issues in public meetings as this may create tension in the multi-religious society where 33 per cent of its population are non-Muslim. “The issue of religion is very sensitive, more sensitive than the issue of race…if the discussions are not kept in check they are bound to raise tension.” He also advised the media not to blow the issue up and to be socially responsible.

This warning came after a group called Article 11 held public meetings and angered hundreds of Muslim demonstrators who later demanded that there should be no open discussion on religious conversion. Article 11 forums focus on the rights of religious freedom provided for by the Constitution.

Sources:

‘Lead by practicing progressive Islam’ (Straits Times, 25 July 2006)

Abdullah-Susilo comradeship brings M’sia-Indonesia closer (Bernama, 25 July 2006)

Abdullah wants public meetings on religious issues stopped (Straits Times, 27 July 2006)

PM wants all parties to stop discussing status of Islam (Daily Express, 26 July 2006)

The objective is a multiracial Malaysia (The Sun, 26 July 2006)

PM: Discussion will raise tension (The Star, 26 July 2006)

Abdullah: Stop activities on inter-faith issue (New Straits Times, 26 July 2006)

PM: Islam Hadhari re-emphasises Islam’s centrality in believers’ lives (The Star, 24 July 2006)

Badawi urges respect for differences (Jakarta Post, 25 July 2006)