January 11, 2012
Experts from 60 countries will gather in the Malaysian capital next week to promote "enduring and peaceful coexistence" among the world’s major faiths at the inaugural meeting of the Global Movement for Moderates (GMM).
Diplomat Tan Sri Razali Ismail, Malaysia's former permanent representative to the UN and a GMM advisor, announced the meeting, which begins on January 17th, at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur earlier in the month.
Scholars from around the world will attend the three-day conference, organized by the Alumni Association of International Islamic University in Malaysia, to discuss papers on issues such as "Human Capital Development: The Key to Moderation" and "The Role of Education in Nurturing Moderation."
The public will be welcome to express views during townhall sessions on January 18th and 19th, and a joint communique will be issued at the end of the conference, organizers said.
]During his press conference, Razali made specific mention of Malaysia, calling on the nation to begin implementing the concept of moderation in politics.
"If you look at the politics in this country, it is very much total exclusion of the other side," he told reporters.
"It isn't a question of belief here. It has to be made, we have to do this, and not just internationally, we have to do it in this country," he added.
The movement was first proposed by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in his speech to the UN General Assembly in September 2010 in which he called for individuals to provide the impetus to dampen and defeat the influence of extremist ideologies worldwide.
"It is time for moderates of all countries, of all religions, to take back the center, to reclaim the agenda for peace and pragmatism and to marginalize the extremists," he said in the speech.
Referring to the Arabic word for moderation, 'wasatiyyah', Razak said, "the real issue is not between Muslims and non-Muslims but between the moderates and extremists…Across all religions we have inadvertently allowed the ugly voices of the periphery to drown out the many voices of reason and common sense."
Over the past two years, the GMM has been striving to promote this goal. The January event is the culmination of the work thus far.
The conference, which aims to be "a setting for the convergence of progressive thoughts and articulate, meaningful ideas on moderation," already boasts confirmed attendance by 300 delegates from over 60 countries.
ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan, Islamic Development Bank President H.E. Dr Ahmad Mohamed Ali Al-Madani and East-West Center President Charles E. Morrison, among others, will make speeches, GMM staff tweeted ().
Razak will give the keynote speech on the 17th, entitled "Global Movement of Moderates: The Way Forward."
Haekal Talib, the conference's content coordinator, told Khabar South Asia that the GMM "seeks to provide a level playing field for key stakeholders in deliberating upon issues that…are increasingly faceless and global in scope" in a world where "many a platform dissuades co-operation between state and non-state actors".
Razali specifically mentioned using the conference to mediate between Israel and Muslim communities around the world.
Israel has come under increasing fire in Southeast Asia, where some Muslim communities feel suspicious of the distant country. This month, the Maldives said it is considering blocking flights from Israel, citing terrorism concerns.
"I think we can't close our eyes and doors totally to Israel," Razali said. "GMM can play a role to engage the moderates in Israel."
He went so far as to say the GMM conference could serve as a platform for creating a paradigm shift in the areas of global security, politics, defense, economics, and social issues.
"I believe it can be done and I believe a lot of people in Malaysia and everywhere else want this to happen," he said.