OIC looks to future with Malaysian leadership

  • Letters
  • Sunday, 12 Oct 2003

THE Tenth Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Conference beginning in Malaysia this weekend is an honour and privilege for our country. Most of the world’s two billion Muslims in at least 130 countries are represented by the 57 national governments whose heads have now gathered here. 

This summit would also remind the world that Islam and Arabia are not necessarily synonymous, that indeed Asian Islam is a key part of the global Muslim community or ummah. Malaysia has shown that Asian Islam is viable and vibrant in being the world’s most developed Muslim country. 

Historically, it was an early 15th century Malay state, Parameswara’s Malacca (the Malacca Sultanate of Iskandar Shah), that was at once an Asian empire, a global trade hub and the fount of Islam in south-east Asia. Thus Malay Islam has reached the zenith over a span of six centuries. 

However, the problem of world Islam today – crippling disunity – exceeds the capacity of any country to resolve. Some of the countries, including prominent OIC member states, have fought one another or allowed foreign powers to drive a wedge between them to their own detriment. 

It is therefore no wonder that an aggressive Israel is able to attack Palestine, Syria and its other neighbours with impunity. If Muslim countries still cannot unite now, we wonder when or if they can ever do so. 

Within itself, Malaysia has achieved remarkable success in both economic development and national unity. Other countries, including other OIC member states, have found this noteworthy and expressed interest in learning how to pull in this direction themselves. 

To be serious requires more than just attending a week-long conference, but establishing close relations with Malaysian society at all levels to understand it better. No country can be so complacent as to reject improved peace with prosperity, success in moderation and unity in diversity. 

One starting point for OIC member countries is to talk the language of peace and how to implement it for the benefit of their peoples. This will reverse the negative stereotypes that link Islam with political violence, and show that Muslim nations can be more peaceable than their foes. 

The other tack is a focus on science and technology, to be achieved with a post-summit think-tank. It is good to encourage greater rationality together with development, and modernity alongside progress, but ideally more balanced intellectual growth should also include the humanities. 

Arab scientists had led the world in algebra and astronomy. But it was not so long ago that the brilliant Prof Abdus Salam of Pakistan, a Nobel laureate and world leader in quantum electrodynamics and particle physics, had to go abroad to continue his outstanding work. 

Although a devout Muslim dedicated to his research and promoting science in developing countries, Abdus Salam could not find enough resources to remain in his homeland. OIC countries must ensure that such losses will not recur by investing wisely in knowledge-creation and learning. 

The OIC is in good hands with Malaysia in the chair for the next three years. But how successful the organisation will be, for their peoples and their faith, depends on how much they value Malaysian leadership by heeding its calls. 

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