JOHOR BARU: Muslims in Malaysia have been reminded to maintain good relationships and co-exist peacefully with others who do not share the same faith or ethnicity as them.
Permaisuri Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Binti Almarhum Sultan Idris Shah said that Muslims must seize every opportunity to exist harmoniously in this shared environment for the common good, irrespective of religious viewpoint.
Her Majesty added that this all-important question of how religions can exist in peace and solidarity in a multi-racial and multi-faith society like Malaysia was the focus of attention at a stimulating conference on "Religious Harmony: Problems, Practice and Education" by the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia in 2004.
"I did not attend this conference but the book published based on the opinions and papers presented was one I read through while preparing for a forum about Malaysian diversity," she said in a column posted on www.royaljohor.com.
Raja Zarith shared several excerpts from the conference proceedings on how Muslims could co-exist with peoples of other faiths.
"According to Islam, there are three degrees of social relations among human beings," she said.
There are Ukhuwah Islamiyah, which is the first stage and it refers to brotherhood between Muslims, Ukhuwah Waltoniyah, brotherhood between citizens of the same nation, even though of different religious orientation or different ethnic or tribal groups; and Ukhuwah Insaniyah, which is social relations between all humans, who are the creations of Allah.
Her Majesty said these Islamic principles provide useful guidelines for all of us when we view the difficult question of how to live in harmony in a country with so much religious diversity.
"We have lived peacefully for centuries despite our religious as well as cultural differences, and there is a great importance for us to continue what our ancestors achieved.
"We are truly blessed to live in a country where there is no armed conflict, and so we must make serious, concerted efforts to continue this quest for religious co-existence," she added.
Raja Zarith said with more effort in educating ourselves through the works and knowledge of Islamic scholars, Her Majesty sincerely believes we can indeed continue to live peacefully, and it is also from their scholarly knowledge that we can silence the voices that encourage discord and intolerance.
"For the love of our country, and for the sake of Malaysian children and young people, we must, more than ever, make concerted efforts to make sure that we can indeed live peacefully and harmoniously, side-by-side with our fellow Malaysians," she added.