February 10, 2005

Transcript Of Bernama Interview
With The Prime Minister

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 10 (Bernama) -- Following is the transcript of Bernama's exclusive interview with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in conjunction with Maal Hijrah 1426 Thursday:
Q: Everywhere, people are talking about Islam Hadhari. What is meant by Islam Hadhari?
A: Islam Hadhari ... Islam is, of course, Islam, but when it is used together with the word "hadhari" it stresses that Islam is civilised -- (a religion) that can contribute towards human civilisation because Islam is a religion that is relevant at all times. (It's) a religion that teaches us to acquire knowledge so that we can improve ourselves to become a good person, one who is successful, respected and capable of bringing development to the ummah and country -- one that can further enhance the position of Islam.
If the followers of Islam are undeveloped and unsuccessful, others will then perceive Islam as being a religion that does not bring any benefit to its followers and it will have a bad name.
For example, there are acts of violence occurring nowadays to the extent that we hear the Western world saying that Islam encourages violence. This is a negative view. When it is seen that many Muslims are quarrelling among themselves, there is lack of understanding and many of the poor countries in the world are Islamic countries, then the image of Islam becomes bad because the image of the Muslims is bad.
Thus, in this context, Islam Hadhari is being used as an approach -- it's not a new sect, not a new religion, it's not that at all. It's not a new ideology, it's just a new approach we have created to bring Muslims towards progress that is blessed by Allah S.W.T.
The approach that we are adopting is based on 10 principles that are most suited to the teachings of our religion. Principles such as faith and piety, of course the hadis and Quran are not being brushed aside. Principles that are related to a just and trustworthy government.
So, if we are leaders, we have to be trustworthy. A civilisation where the people cherish independence. If we are always being dictated by others, we will not progress. We are oppressed, that's not independence. We are not free to think of matters that concern our country -- our future. We are always living in a shadow. We are always suppressed by certain parties to the extent that we have no freedom to do what is best for our country. We only obey orders after being oppressed.
Then, it is a matter of mastering knowledge. This is important for the Muslim individual because Islamic teachings emphasise that we must acquire knowledge.
Then comes economic development that is balanced and comprehensive. This is not contrary to Islam.
Then comes quality living. Living in poverty is not quality living. If we lack knowledge, how can we live a life of quality? Championing the cause of the minority and women. Cultural and moral strength. Conservation of the natural environment and the strength of our defence - all these are in line with our religious teachings. We want to embolden ourselves as Muslims, we have to embolden the Muslims, Muslim countries must be emboldened. If that is our aspiration, then the approach that we take must bring us to our goal.
Q: What is meant by Hadhari?
A: Hadhari emphasises civilisation. In English, it is "civilisational Islam". We want to show that, we Muslims, if we truly understand our religion, can enhance Islamic civilisation. It is not merely improving the Islamic worldview. It is not just improving the glory of our religion. It is making Muslims achieve excellence, glory and distinction.
During the time of the Caliphs, the Abbasid era, for example, they were advanced. They were progressive because they had mastered knowledge. During the Islamic era in Cordoba in Andalusia, the Muslims' mastery of knowledge was truly intense. Their development was made possible because of the inspiration they had from the Islamic religion itself. So they were looked upon with awe and respect.
This is what we want to show, that if we truly understand our religion, we can derive a lot of benefits from it. We are required by Allah S.W.T. to call upon the goodness of Islam to derive benefits -- indulge in "dakwah". We have to devote our lives to "dakwah", always showing what is good. What is there better for us to do that will turn us into better people.
But we must have the wisdom. The Quran, "hadis" are being read by all Muslims but why is it that some Islamic countries are poor and weak. Why is it that some (Islamic) countries are not poor and weak? There is a difference, and the difference is in terms of the government, the role played by the government and the role of the leadership. If we have the wisdom, the wisdom to administer, and (we) want the country to be good and the way we determine the approach is good, then our country will progress, and our country will be great. But if we don't have the wisdom, it will not happen. If the country has gold deposits, but we don't know how to extract them -- we can't even recognise the gold -- then how can the gold bring us wealth?
If I take oil palm as an example, which is not a native crop of this country but was brought to this country from other countries, including in regions where there are many Muslims (but) why is it that the oil palm did not bring wealth to those countries but instead gave us wealth. That is the wisdom, in terms of efforts, in terms of our attitude, in terms of the knowledge that we have, which has enabled us to derive wealth from the oil palm that Allah has blessed to mankind. In Malaysia it (oil palm) gives us wealth and comfort through the knowledge that we had applied. We have mastered knowledge pertaining to oil palm and its technology, and today we can consider ourselves as the best (in the oil palm industry).
Q: Datuk, how do you see the relationship between this year's Maal Hijrah celebration and Islam Hadhari, what more when the theme for the celebration is "Islam Hadhari Generates Progress of the Ummah"?
A: I have attempted to introduce those approaches termed Islam Hadhari with the aim of bringing about a change in our mindset, in our attitude. We are making a shift; we shift from a less developed position to a developed level, or if we are in a developed level we shift to a level of excellence - we want to make that shift. We shift in terms of attitude, opinion, the way we work, scientific and technological facilities. We bring about a change in all these and through that change, God willing, we will attain bigger success. That is what I desire most; and everything begins with our preparedness.
Q: Isn't this responsibility definitely bigger, considering that Malaysia is chairman of the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Conference), and the need for us to actually put forward something exemplary?
A: Yes, people will be observing us and our country. They will be watching what we say and what we do. They will want to know how we fare. How can a country profess to others how to develop when it itself is not developing? They will question us if we ourselves do not understand (Islam Hadhari).
Let us make it work for ourselves first. We will do it well, with the approach that we feel will succeed, God willing. Then, we can share our experience with other countries.
I have to mention here that I have initiated efforts to implement a programme of capacity building for several undeveloped and poor Islamic countries. These countries have been identified and we have drawn up the programme to be implemented. The IDB (Islamic Development Bank) is involved in this (programme). We hope to implement the programme shortly. With the implementation of the programme, we hope that directly or indirectly we will be able to create opportunities for the people of these countries in terms of employment, business and other aspects. We, therefore, empower them little by little to enable them to improve their situation and that of their countries.
Q: Datuk, you had spoken recently of the need to create towering personalities among the Malays. In that context, you had said that Islam Hadhari can help create these towering personalities. How do you interpret the connection?
A: I said that if I could I would want to create as many of these towering personalities as possible. We want people to stand tall. In other words, the individual is well-mannered. He/she is knowledgeable. His/her achievements are great. He/she is of great stature. He/she is a great intellectual. Their achievement is respected by the people. People look up to him/her because he/she is "tall" in terms of knowledge. He/she may not be tall physically but people look up to him/her. We respect him/her; we are impressed with his/her achievements. This is what is meant by "towering personality".
Such an individual's presence will be felt. People will be aware of his/her presence, they respect him/her, they will rise upon seeing him/her -- that is what we want. Therefore, in building ourselves up, we must begin with a disciplined determination and resilience to change from a less progressive individual to a progressive one, from a less intelligent person to an intelligent one. All these must be done through the mastery of knowledge. Whatever the knowledge may be, whether science and technology, or whatever. Whatever we set out to do must attain success. We must achieve excellence; it is important that we do.
And, Islam Hadhari shows us how we can do it. There are the "Maqasid al Syariah" principles:
* Preserve, ennoble and embolden religion
* Preserve, ennoble and embolden intelligence
* Preserve, ennoble and embolden life
* Preserve, ennoble and embolden property
* Preserve, ennoble and embolden descendants
Much of these have a connection with the personality. The knowledge we have must be used for doing good, for helping people, to contribute to human civilisation.
The technology that we develop can make better humans of people. That is the contribution that we can make. But if we do not have the knowledge, we cannot make such a contribution.
Why was Islam popular and glorious at one time? It was because the Islamic world had many intellectuals, scientists, inventors, researchers, mathematicians, engineers, astronomers and astrologers.
They acquired much knowledge and this knowledge was disseminated to everyone else until it spread to Europe. Islam was at its height then, Europe was in the dark age. The Europeans who came to Cordoba learnt from the ulama, the Muslim scientists. They then took the knowledge back to Europe, enlightened Europe and Europe progressed. That is what we want (to achieve).
Q: Do you have a fixed time frame to achieve this objective?
A: This will take a long time because it is linked with not only physical development. It starts with development of the human capital, which must be equipped with knowledge. There must be the attitude to embolden oneself, one's thinking, the knowledge one has, one's ideas and one's life. This is important because it is such people who will enliven a country. These are the people who will do something that will succeed. These are the people who can invent a technology. This is what we want. That's why I said that with the spirit of Islam Hadhari, we can progress and be successful. If human beings are progressive and successful and use approaches such as Islamic Hadhari, the country will develop (and) when it has developed, it will become progressive. Our race will be progressive and successful. That's what we want.
Why have I chosen religion? Because, for the Malays, Islamic teachings hold strength. For the Malays, if the religion says that this is a good way, they will do it. Islam becomes an imperative, an inspiration, a call that the Malays will readily accept because it is good. When our religion says it (something) is good, we will do it.
Q: So, it is not true if certain groups say Islam Hadhari is to counter PAS?
A: Not at all, not at all, I don't think so. To counter Pas is short-term. This we are thinking in the range of tens of years ahead. If we are strong, I believe the Malay Muslims -- when we achieve our developed nation status through Vision 2020 -- will become a race which does not lag behind. When we become a developed country and development is everywhere, I don't want to see the Malays still lagging behind. That's not good; we don't want that.
With our success, we will become the group that will contribute towards the nation's development, Malaysian society and the Malaysian race. We will not be a race which is merely dependent on assistance, assistance, assistance.
We are a people who have given assistance -- not merely hoping for it. We will become an asset. An asset with a very high value, not merely a liability that causes uneasiness to others. We can do it.
Q: And this is important in the context of a multiracial country like ours?
A: Yes, a multiracial country.
Q: Meaning, the non-Muslims should not worry about the Islamic Hadhari approach?
A: I have spoken to non-Muslim groups. I mentioned to them one by one the principles that we talk about. I asked them whether these principles are contrary to their religion, whether it be Hinduism or Buddhism or any other. One by one I mentioned the principles and nothing is contrary to their religion.
What's wrong if Muslims want to become a better people? Good Muslims do not have to be at enmity with other people. Why do we want to be at enmity when all of us are Malaysians living in peace and harmony in this country?
Everyone loves this country, everyone wants this country to be peaceful and safe, wants to contribute to the country's development for the people's well-being. So, why we must quarrel; there is no reason for us to quarrel. We only want to improve ourselves so that we will become progressive Malaysians. We want to become an excellent race, we want to become glorious and a race of distinction. That is the highest (achievement), and we can achieve it.
Q: You have met the relevant authorities who will implement the approach. After this, can we see efforts towards this end being stepped up?
A: Yes, efforts towards this end will be intensified. We need to explain the reasons why some people seem to belittle Islam Hadhari. These people seem not to want changes; they want to do things their way. Even previously they did not have any ideas on what to do. When we want to do something and people start to accept that, they talk of things not being right. They claim this is anti-Islam, that it is not Islamic, that it is fiction. Let them be. We have our own way and the things we promote and bring to the people are good. The people can think for themselves, they are not stupid. They will know what is good for them. Islam Hadhari is not against the Islamic faith. We are not introducing a new Islam. The approach we have taken is the wisdom from our understanding of what our religion wants. It is how we promote Islamic teachings through this approach so that in the modern era of science and technology in the 21st century in a multiracial society, Muslims in Malaysia still can become a progressive and successful race.
Q: In summing up, Islam Hadhari has been planned thoroughly, would take a long time to implement, is not a new teaching, and is not aimed at countering PAS or to gain popularity?
A: I have adopted this approach after giving the subject much thought for a long time. It was an idea that was developed and expanded after much consultation. I knew that there must be a way after considering many things and looking at the problems of today. The Quran does not change, similarly the "Hadis". But human beings must understand the teachings. The message conveyed by the Quran must be understood correctly.
For instance, if the Quran states that we have to make all the preparations within our means to face our enemy, Pak Lah is also prepared. But if it were horses and bows and arrows in the past, it is sophisticated and modern weaponry today -- that is progress.

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"