Globalisation poses clear challenge to Muslims
By Waleed PD Mahdini in Kuala Lumpur

In a special address during the opening ceremony at the 6th World Islamic Economic Forum (6th WIEF), His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday called on the Muslim world to seek out economic opportunities and not be left behind as the world economy slowly surges back on the road to recovery.

His Majesty lauded the positive roles made by the WIEF Foundation in world affairs today and highlighted its "constructive contributions to peace, goodwill and co-operation among all nations to discuss matters that are of deep importance, not just to our Muslim Ummah but to all members of the international community".

The monarch recalled the "work of the Forum with great interest ever since its first session in 2005", which was the year that witnessed the "groundbreaking Special Summit in Mecca, as one of the two most significant meetings in the first decade in the 21st Century".

His Majesty pointed out that the first was the United Nations Millennium Summit where the Millennium Development Goals were adopted that "more than any previous set of principles, gave international purpose to the lives of every ordinary citizen in every country in the world".

As a result, the monarch said that the Play of Action set out at the Mecca Summit five years later, allied two billion Muslims to the same international objective, which the Forum has provided inspiration and dynamic practical impetus in a most crucial area of modern international relations.

"I see the first 10 years of this century not in terms of crises whether economic, financial or political. I see them in terms set out in the various themes, which have been chosen for this annual gathering, new alliances... partnerships... security," noted His Majesty to the assembled audience from all corners of the world including government and corporate leaders at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

The monarch, ever the astute statesman, then framed his assessment by asking: "How much, I ask, have our ordinary people's lives been improved? As individuals, as families and as communities, are they better prepared to meet modern challenges? How much more confident are they now in facing the future? If we can answer these questions positively, then we are indeed responding well to the theme of the Forum's very first meeting here in Kuala Lumpur in 2005," which was 'Development and Progress'.

By linking the purpose of the UN Millennium Goals to the objectives of the Mecca Summit and the work of the WIEF, His Majesty discussed another theme that "underpins almost every aspect of international life today", which "at an even deeper level, I believe is one of the most serious concerns of all Muslims in this 21st Century and by this, I refer to globalisation".

The monarch noted that "the word is part of everyday life and almost everyone has his own interpretation". Some rejoice in it, said His Majesty, while some others regret it and some even condemn it. "What we all agree on here, however, is that it presents a clear challenge to Muslims," said His Majesty, noting its implicitness within the Forum's theme of 'Gearing for Economic Resurgence'.

The monarch reasoned that even with the onset of globalisation, it should not involve seeing how we can adjust or adapt our faith to a new set of realities. Muslims, said His Majesty, know only one reality. "They see the one world they live in. They know the one faith they believe in," which His Majesty surmised in other words, "they are already globalised, just as Muslims have always been for nearly one and a half thousand years". Because of this proud and unique history, "they wish to take part to the full in the one world they live in and the wish to strengthen the one faith they believe in". If this is the resurgence that the Muslim world is seeking, then "it is this wish I see resurging", His Majesty added.

Muslims have all felt the impact of many so-called economic and financial crises over the last two years, which the monarch noted "is simple proof that we are inextricably bound up in world affairs", thus underscoring the importance that "our people must have the tools and skills to handle them well, as nations, as traders, as businessmen and women, as ordinary citizens of the world and as Muslims". It was for this very reason that the Forum offers and encourages ideas and programmes of advice, training and opportunity.

But His Majesty emphasised on another point about resurgence saying: "If it is to take place, we cannot afford to be passive members of the international community. We ourselves, as Muslims, have much to offer and encourage our partners in the world" as the world, the monarch firmly maintains "needs us".

The monarch then made a simple distinction between the many calls for "commerce, trade, banking and finance to be fair, honest, ethical and moral", which His Majesty said "many non-Muslims, up to the highest authorities among the great powers at the United Nations, have made". The word that is often used is "regulated". However, His Majesty noted that "the words Muslims have always used are far less controversial. We use the terms 'just' or simply 'fair', as "these have always been Islam's values, its principles, and its basic approach to business", the monarch added, which "far more than any products, can be Islam's major contribution to international business".

But His Majesty took stock of the fact that undertaking this task of incorporating these values and principles into global economic and business affairs would be "long and hard".

In summing up, His Majesty reminded all those present and, in particular, the WIEF Foundation that this is the biggest responsibility entrusted and expected from Islamic Forums such as the WIEF, which His Majesty said "calls for persuasion, goodwill, technical skill and commercial expertise", which would "obviously take much time, effort and conviction".

The monarch then left the audience to ponder on a final question by asking them "if we are seeking a way out of short-term cycles of this crisis and recovery, this is the surest way of achieving any lasting 'resurgence' not just for the Ummah, but for the whole world of business and economics". - Borneo Bulletin (20th May 2010)