Sunday October 3, 2004

Malaysia the peacemaker

It wants to be a centre for resolving conflicts and promoting trade in the Islamic world


MALAYSIA has offered itself as a centre to resolve conflicts in the Muslim and developing world.
The move was announced by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi on Friday during his visit to Britain.
Speaking at Oxford University's Centre for Islamic Studies, he said Malaysia also wanted to energise trade and services among Muslim nations and was prepared to be the focal point of open discourse on Islam.
These initiatives form the cornerstone of the country's attempt to promote reforms in the Muslim world.
He also noted that not enough work was being carried out formally to resolve conflicts in the Muslim world.
'This initiative should not be confined to conflict areas in the Muslim world, but also to other nations in the developing world,' he said.
'As peace is at the heart of the Islamic faith, I believe we should demonstrate our commitment to peace in a formal, structured and institutionalised manner.'
Malaysia will work closely with conflict resolution centres in the West.
It will learn from them and use its international goodwill to help resolve conflicts.
Referring to trade and service in the Muslim world, Datuk Seri Abdullah noted that at present, trade among Islamic countries was worth US$800 billion (S$1.3 trillion) or about 7 per cent of the total world trade.
'If trade and investments are seen as necessary ingredients for development, we want to encourage the rich capital available in some Muslim countries to be allocated to and invested in potential growth markets in the Muslim world,' he said.
Malaysia will focus on the niche areas of halal products and Islamic financial services.
The global halal food market is estimated to be worth US$150 billion a year.
If the 1.8 billion Muslim consumers can be tapped, this market can grow to more than US$560 billion annually.
Islamic financial services was also cited by the Prime Minister as another sector with tremendous growth potential.
There is currently more than US$250 billion worth of Islamic assets under management and a further US$400 billion in Islamic financial and equity investments being made.
Malaysia can also be the focal point to promote a more open and diverse Islamic discourse, Datuk Seri Abdullah said.
Malaysian universities, he said, would work with institutions around the world such as the Oxford Centre to promote 'a critical dialogue that needs to take place within the Muslim world'.
For a start, Malaysia will invite scholars of Islam to start the process of intellectual reform and renewal.
'This will not be easy. We may initially be opposed by those who believe that they and only they can participate in religious discourse,' he said.
For such discourse to work, he said, there must be a mix of progressive and conservative thinkers debating in an open environment. -- New Straits Times

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"