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Nation

Published: Saturday April 19, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Saturday April 19, 2014 MYT 7:53:43 AM

Najib, Obama and Legacy 370

High and low: An Orion P-3K of the Royal New Zealand Air Force banking above HMAS Perth of the Royal Australian Navy during the ongoing search for MH370 in the Southern Indian Ocean. — AFP

High and low: An Orion P-3K of the Royal New Zealand Air Force banking above HMAS Perth of the Royal Australian Navy during the ongoing search for MH370 in the Southern Indian Ocean. — AFP

Is it possible that we are witnessing an age foreseen by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah?

PRESIDENT Barack Obama and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak have no shortage of subjects to discuss when the American president comes to Malaysia.

Much has already been written about this first visit to Malaysia by a United States president since 1966, how this visit presents an opportunity to cement recent positive developments in US-Malaysia bilateral relations, and set the tone for this relationship in the decades ahead.

Of the many subjects they will discuss, two uniquely highlight Malaysia’s contribution to the international discourse: the disposition of MH370, and what Malaysia’s contribution as an economically successful and moderate Islamic nation can be towards moderating the discourse around Islam and State governance, specifically in bridging the ideological divide between the Islamic and secular political parties that have resulted in violence in nations like Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

While recognising the terrible tragedy of the loss of life and pain suffered by MH370 passengers’ families, many have noted how flight 370 has inadvertently thrust Malaysia onto the international stage as a symbol of international cooperation.

A total of 26 nations – some of them wary adversaries – have to date spent well over US$20mil (RM64.7mil) and sometimes-secret surveillance sources in a major cooperative effort to search for the aircraft and its 239 souls. This cooperation marks a milestone of a major paradigm shift.

Here and now, in this time of emergency, nations are committing their military assets and working together for a common cause.

Is it possible that we are witnessing an age foreseen by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah?

He famously prophesied a time when nations “shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

This quote from the Bible is on a wall on the ground floor of the United Nations Secretariat building in New York City, and epitomises the vision behind the UN.

As Obama and Najib meet, we, especially of the faith community, who seek peace and prosperity, should point out that something monumental has happened here and the cooperation built during the search should not be allowed to dissipate once the search is completed, but transformed into a lasting legacy, as much out of respect to MH370 and its 239 passengers and crew, as to what it speaks to us of our humanity.

For if the nations of the world can unite and deploy their military assets in the search for Flight 370, they can certainly work together to rid the world of famine, malaria and human trafficking, calm remaining conflicts and solve the myriad other major problems causing major loss of innocent life.

At the root of all major religions, especially Islam, is the quest for peace, salam.

The Muslim greeting assalamu alaikum, peace be upon you, is not just intended to be words on our lips, but an affirmation of what Muslims stand for.

As Prime Minister of a moderate and peace-loving Muslim nation, Prime Minister Najib has championed the concept of moderation (wasatiyya) as intrinsic to Islam, for it is clear that if violence is a product of extremism, then extremism’s opposite – moderation – is necessary to peace.

A Global Movement of Moderates from all faith communities would therefore be critical in promoting global peace.

So, what is my prayerful ask of the Najib-Obama meeting?

That in crafting their joint statement, they pick one of the many global problems, and launch Legacy MH370, inviting the 26 nations that have already become part of this coalition (and other nations who wish to join) to deploy a percentage of their military budgets or assets towards solving this problem.

Better yet, that they do this under the rubric of the Global Movement of Moderates.

And that we, of all faith communities worldwide, stand ready to help usher in Isaiah’s prophecy, for we are closer to achieving it than we have ever been.

> Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is the Chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, a multi-national, multi-faith organisation dedicated to improving Muslim-West relations. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

Tags / Keywords: Nation, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

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