THE world we live in today is much more interconnected than ever before.
The lightning speed of communication, ease of travelling abroad, advancement in education, as well as expansion of the worldwide business network have all contributed to making every person a global citizen. Arguably, no country can survive on its own in this millennium without working well with others.
Despite such rapid development across regions and continents, some problems remain within countries where the majority of the population shares a common trait, i.e. the religion of Islam. As the saying goes, correlation does not imply causation, but one cannot help but wonder, why are Muslim-majority countries the ones that continue to be plagued by civil wars, terrorism, famine, extreme poverty, epidemics, armed conflicts, coups d’état and human rights violations? How could a source of personal faith and spiritual belief, touted as a blessing to mankind and the universe (rahmatan lil alamin), be the common denominator for all the troubles brewing in the backyard of its followers?
A learned Islamic scholar, Muhammad Abduh, once said: “I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I got back to the East and saw Muslims, but not Islam.” It may sound cynical, but we must take cognisance of two things. Firstly, Islamic values, in essence, are parallel with any universal good values practised by people all over the world, and secondly, being Muslim per se is not enough for one to be deemed Islamic; one must match it with behaviour and action. In other words, we have to walk the talk.
When the proponents of the KL Summit 2019 brandished the idea, sceptics said it could end up being another event where people scrutinised the religion more than they scrutinised themselves. The truth is, the KL Summit was a platform for Muslim-majority nations to share their views, challenges, experiences and potential solutions that could be applied throughout the Muslim world. The discussions ranged from humanitarian missions to corporate governance, from renewable energy to youth exchange programmes. Issues that were previously not discussed among Muslim nations, such as the Industrial Revolution 4.0, digital economy, science and technology, and sustainable development goals, were put under the spotlight. These issues matter to the global Muslim community as much as they do to the rest of the world.
Contrary to what some may posit, the summit was not intended to undermine existing avenues, such as the United Nations or Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. It was more about complementing them in a more action-oriented and result-driven way. International diplomacy could take years, even decades, to resolve a conflict, and underneath the layers of politically correct language and diplomatic notes, the rhetoric tends to drown out the elephant in the room instead of finding ways to address the real problem. We need results, and we need them now.
The first step towards achieving these objectives is to have stakeholders willingly sit at the same table. Religious and regional conflicts should not be a hindrance to cooperation between Islamic nations. Of the conflicts in today’s world, 60% occur in Muslim countries. Whether it’s the case of the persecuted Rohingya in Myanmar, Uighur “re-education” camps in China or military blitzkrieg between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the Muslim world should set aside their differences and speak up as one, since the benefits that come from unity far outweigh the bane.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad is a pragmatist, and so are many other leaders in the Muslim world. They fully understand that the problems are caused by people, and not the religion. The tenets and foundations of society must be strong in order for it to withstand global challenges, what more, keep up with other established nations. Muslims cannot simply rely on their past glory and hope that their great history will somehow bring back the good old days. They have to work hard, and work together, to achieve it. Based on such an understanding, ideas were mooted and presented at the KL Summit, and we can now witness collaborations in the areas of youth exchange, food security, media cooperation, training and defence.
The event’s narrative is clear. Everyone wants progress, and they are willing to play their part, from their respective countries, to bring back the long-lost “golden era” of Islam. The focus is not on competing with the Western world or Far East economic powerhouses, but more on improving livelihoods through better infrastructure, systems and shared prosperity. In the end, true sovereignty is achieved when a country can design a road map to success while dictating its own terms.
Quoting the Holy Quran, Chapter 43, Verse 13: “All humans are equal in sight of Allah irrespective of their colour, race or nationality. Human beings, We created you all from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.” If Muslims spend an equivalent amount of time, effort and resources to rebuild their countries as much as they have on, say, continuing the violence between Sunnis and Shias, the Muslim world would become a great empire. It is hoped that the congregation of global Muslim leaders, politicians, technocrats, scholars, policymakers and academics in Kuala Lumpur recently encourages a better understanding of each other and paves the way to a brighter future for the Islamic community. – December 29, 2019.
* Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman is youth and sports minister.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.