Global Movement of Moderates should be seen as an Asean initiative to help secure global peace, security and development
by DATUK DR NASHARUDIN MAT ISA
In 2010, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had expounded on the idea of a truly global movement of moderates — from all faiths — to stem the tide of extremism.
Ever more pertinently, the concept of moderation is not a new philosophy and has its base much rooted in Islam’s concept of wasatiyyah, which is the middle path or golden mean. It should be noted, as mentioned in detail by the prime minister, that the “initiative called the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) is based on the concept of wasatiyyah, meaning the middle path or moderation. This is an Islamic concept. The concept promotes mutual respect. Even during the days of Prophet Muhammad, Islam coexisted with other religions. This can be used as a basis to promote common core values among people of different faiths”.
The concept of moderation is, thus, essentially a call for peaceful coexistence without devaluing elements of cultural and contextual relativity. More than that, it seeks to promote acceptance, more so than tolerance, of other cultures and faiths, as long as it does not endanger the community or nation. It is the latter that presents the challenge to man and those vested with authority, for it requires being just and the added element of wisdom. That criteria, along with moderation, make up wasatiyyah.
It must be mentioned, as promoted by the prime minister and other dignitaries at GMM conferences, it is diversity, and not universality, that is the most salient characteristic of the world we live in. Such a culture of mutual respect, tolerance and understanding of another’s faith is essential to stem the rise of extreme ignorance and violent extremism. It is in this very context that the 2015 Langkawi Declaration on the Global Movement of Moderates should be seen as an Asean initiative to help secure global peace, security and development, besides upholding knowledge, sharing discourse and dialogue by learning from fellow Asean nations.
It must be stressed that while the concept of a Global Movement of Moderates Foundation was inspired by the Islamic understanding of al-wasatiyyah, it is not exclusively for Muslims. The norm of moderation is not a Muslim propaganda or agenda, let alone should it be viewed as such should any group of Islamophobes attest to it. Rather, it is for all faiths, and more fittingly, it should be seen as a panacea to the ignorance of Islamophobia and violent extremism (of any religion). The issue of the Islamic State and its sympathisers in the Muslim community aside, Asean would also testify that tendencies of violent extremism have manifested themselves just as well from sections of the Buddhist, Hindu and Christian groups, too. Hence, the agenda of moderation by the Asean community transcends elements of religion, but rather as a tool of cooperation in addressing deeprooted problems that bear more resemblance to political issues that have led to violent extremism.
Thus, while efforts or initiatives such as the multilateral defence cooperation of the Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) is a step in the right direction of creating a regional cooperation against violent extremism and global terrorism, there is also the need for soft approaches in intellectually dealing with the bane of violent extremism.
In the course of disseminating moderation, there is much to learn from the Asean community on their voices on how moderation is perceived, as well as their experience and expertise toward an inclusive Asean community built upon the precept of moderation or, as some may see it, the Asean way.
There is much to learn from Indonesia’s experience of fostering resilience by way of its pancasila, or Thailand’s education blueprint concerning the Asean community, or even the Philippines’s venture of the Bishop-Ulama Conference. These are the bridge-building initiatives that can be espoused under Asean’s endorsement for a Global Movement of Moderates. Moreover, Malaysia has additionally strengthened its resolve in calling for a united and firm Asean in the face of global terrorism by setting up a counter-messaging centre to dissuade views that Daesh and similar ilk are associated with Islam.
The prime minister also made statements on the Regional Digital Counter-Messaging Communications Centre as an initiative to stem the growing outreach and recruitment efforts of militant groups in the Asean region.
Such a declaration is timely given the supposedly bland counter-narratives on offer compared with the appeal of terrorist organisations, as well as acknowledging the stigma that is attached to government-based countering-violent extremism initiatives.
Further efforts are nevertheless required to collate these influential figures and scholars in working together to guide the masses – especially those most likely to be influenced by terrorism – in such bridge-building initiatives. It is our belief that efforts such as these require the keen understanding of local nuances since there is no one style approach in combating violent extremism.
Thereupon, the application of wasatiyyah as well as the forming of a global movement of moderates could very well serve as a panacea in the embodiment of values in guaranteeing peace, prosperity and a culture of coexistence among the global citizens of the world towards defeating the ideologies of terrorist networks.
DATUK DR NASHARUDIN MAT ISA is executive chairman and chief executive officer of the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation
Source: New Straits Times