Muslims told to unify, reclaim passion for knowledge
The News, May 29, 2007
KUALA LUMPUR: The Muslim world must unify and reclaim its passion for knowledge to counter the West’s negative image of the religion, the leaders of Malaysia and Indonesia said on Monday.
“We are not weak. We appear weak because we do not act in concert. We appear weak because we have been told we are weak and believed it,” Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told the third World Islamic Economic Forum, aimed at boosting cooperation among Muslim communities.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told the same forum that knowledge and innovation are key to the Islamic world’s regaining its status as one of the most advanced and civilised parts.
“The loss of knowledge and innovation within the Muslim ummah eventually led to the loss of sovereignty and empire,” Abdullah said. “We must rediscover our ability and passion for knowledge and innovation.... We must reclaim this legacy,” Abdullah said.
Malaysia chairs the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) whose members, in 2005, accounted for 21 per cent of the world’s population but only five per cent of global gross domestic product, he said.
“Clearly, much more effort and resources need to be put into education,” Abdullah said. Many oil-rich OIC nations spend less on education than developed countries, he said, lauding a 10-billion-dollar endowment fund announced May 19 by the United Arab Emirates to promote education in Arab countries.
On Sunday the OIC said it will launch in Senegal on Tuesday a 10-billion-dollar fund to fight poverty in the Islamic world.
Yudhoyono, who leads the world’s largest Muslim nation, said Muslims must realise they are not helpless. He urged them to unite to face the global challenges of poverty, economic imbalances and global warming, and fears over the sustainability of food and energy sources.
They should use as leverage their position as suppliers of 70 per cent of the world’s energy requirements and 40 per cent of its raw materials, he said. “If the nations of the rest of the world want our energy and our commodities, we must also obtain from them, in fair exchange, knowledge and technology,” he said.
He added that Muslims should change the developed world’s view of the Islamic community “from something negative or indifferent if not hostile to something positive and enthusiastic.” Yudhoyono urged Islamic countries to break down trade and investment barriers and improve business flows.
Tensions between the Islamic world and the West have deepened following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States that killed about 3,000 people and for which al-Qaeda claimed responsibility.
The two-day World Islamic Economic forum has attracted about 900 participants including government leaders and top business executives, with representatives from the OIC countries, India, China, the US and Europe.