Speech by Sultan Nazrin on civilizational dialogue most apt and timely

The speech by Perak ruler Sultan Nazrin Shah at the Second Malaysia-China Youth Civilisational Dialogue on Islam and Confucianism yesterday in conjunction with the 45th anniversary of Malaysia-China diplomatic relations could not be more apt and timely.

Both the speech and the dialogue highlight the important fact that Malaysia is the confluence of four great civilisations in the world – Islamic, Chinese, Indian and Western – and represent a challenge to Malaysians as to how we can best leverage on their values and qualities to build a great Malaysian nation and a better world.

Sultan Nazrin’s confidence of “vibrantly multicultural“ Malaysia as “a fitting location for a dialogue between different religions and sets of beliefs” should be adopted by Malaysians so that Malaysia can play a greater role in the international community to promote understanding, tolerance and harmony at a time when hate, intolerance and conflict are raising their ugly heads.

Sultan Nazrin is right that we are living in an increasingly conflicted and divided world. But moderates of all ethnicities, religions, cultures and nations must not cede territory to the extremists and the irrational, as the majority everywhere are moderates and rational people.

As Sultan Nazrin has said at the 48th convocation of the Ungku Omar Polytechnic in Ipoh, Malaysians must reject racial and religious extremists.

He said: "After 62 years of independence, the voice which unites and the voice of moderation that encompasses the people, never allow this to be seized by anyone for the purposes of shallow short-term politics.

"The future of the people and the country should not be handed to groups that bring racial and religious extremist ideologies."

Sultan Nazrin referred to the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) initiative - established in 2005 “largely in defiance of Samuel Huntington’s controversial ‘Clash of Civilisation’ thesis” – seeking to forge international, intercultural and inter-religious co-operation.

The UNAOC initiative was born 14 years ago under the co-sponsorship of Spain and Turkey to address the root causes of polarisation and violent extremism and to promote inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue as a tool to achieve diversity, inclusiveness and tolerance based on mutual respect.

I had always believed that multiracial, multi-religious and multi-cultural Malaysia is very well placed as the confluence of the four great civilisations of the world to play a leading role in this “Alliance of civilisations”, both domestically and in the international arena.

If Sultan Nazrin’s speech can help Malaysia move in this direction, to promote understanding, tolerance and mutual respect among different ethnicities, religions and cultures, both within the country and the world, to check the rise of hate and intolerance, it will be the greatest achievement of the royal address.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri