Islam Hadhari and Muslim Christian Relations in Malaysia


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Islam Hadhari and Muslim Christian Relations in Malaysia

  1. 1. ISLAM HADHARI AND MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN RELATIONS IN MALAYSIA By Janice Chin Yen Ni A Paper Presented to Dr. Evelyne Reisacher and the School of Intercultural Studies FULLER THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree M. A. in Inter-Cultural Studies March 2010
  2. 2. TABLE OF CONTENTS TABLE OF CONTENTS.......................................................................................................ii INTRODUCTION................................................................................................................ 1 CHAPTER 1 MALAYSIA: FROM COLONIALISM TO CONSTITUTION ............ 2 British Colonialism............................................................................................... 2 Postcolonial Malaysia and its Constitution ..................................................... 3 CHAPTER 2 MALAYSIA: HISTORY OF MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN RELATIONS...... 4 Background of Islam and Christianity .............................................................. 4 Christian Mission and the Malay Polity ........................................................... 5 Islamic Revivalism ................................................................................................. 5 Towards Dialogue................................................................................................ 6 CHAPTER 3 ISLAM HADHARI IN MALAYSIA............................................................ 8 What is Islam Hadhari? ....................................................................................... 8 The Ten Principles of the Islam Hadhari Framework.................................. 8 Articulation of Islam Hadhari Under Badawi ................................................. 9 Reactions to Islam Hadhari .............................................................................. 10 CHAPTER 4 ISLAM HADHARI FOR MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN RELATIONS ......... 11 Bridging the Divide via Islam Hadhari............................................................ 11 Identity of the Dhimmah .................................................................................. 12 The Imperative of Dakwah............................................................................... 13 The Inevitability of Dialogue ............................................................................ 14 SUMMARY ............................................................................................................................ 15 REFERENCES CITED ......................................................................................................... 16 ii
  3. 3. INTRODUCTION In the Muslim world, Malaysia is reputable for its “stability, tolerance, and steady economic gains” in the last three decades (Gatsiounis 2006:78). Seeing itself as a model for the Islamic world, its growth has drawn attention from the Middle East and other South Asian countries like Thailand (Chong 2006:41-42). In the past three decades, the Islamic influence in the nation has grown, and this has had significant impact on Muslim- Christian relations as well as the stability of the racial harmony within this multiethnic nation. An institutional monarchy, the political system of Malaysia has come under particular scrutiny in these last three years, as the ethnic tensions underlined by religious suspicions heightens with the increasing Islamization by the government. Religion has always been stipulated in the Malaysian Constitution since the formation of the newly-independent state of Malaysia, with Islam as its official religion while promising religious freedom to other minority groups. Significant events over the years have cumulatively impacted the racial and religious tensions leading to the establishment of the ketuanan Melayu policy. Ever since, the Islamization of law has proceeded methodically like no other country in Asia (Chong 2006:32; see also Horowitz 1994). With the installation of Abdullah Badawi as prime minister, a campaign known as Islam Hadhari was introduced. Like many Islamic movements in other parts of the world, Islam Hadhari articulates the vision for a restored and empowered Ummah (global Muslim community) (Gatsiounis 2006:78). We will explore Islam Hadhari in light of the history of Malaysia’s Muslim-Christian relations, and then take a look at how it can serve as a bridge for Muslim-Christian relations today.
  4. 4. CHAPTER 1 MALAYSIA: FROM COLONIALISM TO CONSTITUTION British Colonialism Malaysia, previously known as Malaya, was originally inhabited by Malays (Goddard 2000:238), as well as orang asli (indigenous groups), who occupied “more inaccessible regions of the country” (Goddard 2000:238; Lubis 2005:79). Wealth of natural resources led various European powers to contend for ruling entitlement and commercial gains, exacerbating existing political instability and causing jurisdictional conflicts (Hall 1981; Jessy 1985). The British colonialists entered the scene during the nineteenth-century, significantly impacting the political, cultural and religious climate. Chinese and Indian immigrants were brought in by the British colonial administrators as indentured workers (Goddard 2000:238). For example, in 1882 the British North Borneo Company recruited workers for the development of railways and coconut plantations with the help of Lechler, a Protestant missionary (Yu 1987). Coupled with the booming of tin and rubber industries, there was a dramatic increase of total population due to immigration, from 2.6 million in 1911 to 5.5 million in 1941 (Lubis 2005:80). Primarily, the Chinese grew in influence as traders or entrepreneurs, whereas the Indians specialized in plantations, and in civil service or education. 2
  5. 5. Postcolonial Malaysia and its Constitution In 1957, Malaysia gained independence (Braswell 1996:196) as Britain withdrew from colonial control. The Malay Federated States and the two states on Borneo island (later called East Malaysia) joined forces to become the new state of Malaysia (Goddard 2000:239). At this point, it is necessary to note that Muslim-Christian relations in East Malaysia has been remarkably different from that of West Malaysia since the formation of the state (Goddard 2000:239-240). This is to become significant over time, particularly in the political arena (Goddard 2000:240). With Malaysia’s merdeka (national independence), Islam was enshrined as the official religion in the Malaysian Constitution (Lubis 2005:56). By default all Malays are Muslims, while it is possible to be Muslim without being Malay (Goddard 2000:238). One can say that Islam in Malaysia is highly racialized; to appear “un-Islamic” is to appear “un- Malay”, which is a political liability (Gatsiounis 2006:79). The commitment to benefit the majority of Malays was, and still is, a key to the government’s hegemony. The majority of the Chinese are adherents to “traditional Chinese religion”, and most Indians are Hindu; in both, a significant number of Christians are present (Goddard 2000:238). Proselytization of Muslims is to be penalized, whilst “other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation” (Ackerman 1988). Today, there is “considerable variety” in the Malaysian population of 26 million (Goddard 2000:237-238). The three major ethnic groups are the Malays (50.4%), Chinese (23.7%), indigenous (11%), Indians (7.1%) and others (7.8%) (2004 est.). A census report in 2000 shows Muslims constituting 60.4% of the population, Buddhists 19.2%, Christians 9.1%, Hindus 6.3%, Confucianism, Taoism and other traditional Chinese religions 2.6%, other or unknown 1.5%, and none 0.8% ("CIA - The World Factbook --- Malaysia" 2008). 3
  6. 6. CHAPTER 2 MALAYSIA: HISTORY OF MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN RELATIONS Background of Islam and Christianity Compared to the Middle East, Malaysia is “neither Arabic-speaking nor has been part of any great Muslim empire” (Ahmed 2007:13). Through Muslim merchants and traders, as well as the Sufi orders, Islam spread in the fifteenth-century “gently and slowly…and has adjusted to and blended with different religions, notably Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity” (Ahmed 2007:13; Braswell 1996:194). Christianity came to be established very similarly, in that both met at similar stages of their expansion, and both relatively recently. Christianity also expanded through seatrade, “through the Portuguese and the Dutch from the West, across the Indian Ocean, and the Portuguese and the Spanish from the East, across the Pacific Ocean” (Goddard 2000:232-233). It was not until the “Great Century” that a surge of Christian mission shaped by the Protestant missionary movement came to the region (Latourette 1944:1319-1320). At the same time, the West was expanding its colonial territory. Thus, the missionary enterprise – both Catholic and Protestant – became associated with Western imperialism, and experienced resistance from the “solidly Muslim” Malays towards Christian missionaries (Hastings 1999:386; Latourette 1944:1319-1320). 4
  7. 7. Christian Mission and the Malay Polity During British colonialism, following the signing of a treaty in 1874, the British officials served as chief advisors to each sultan on all matters except Islam and Malay adat (customs) (McAmis 2002:38). Because “by extension Malays are Muslims and Muslims are Malays” (Lubis 2005:83), no interference was allowed on the Malay religion, thus discouraging missionary work (Yegar 1979:261-2; Ng 1992:97). Christianizing work then spread among the Chinese and Indian migrant communities. With this came official recognition of: (1) Islam as the basis of Malay polity and cultural identity, and (2) the aristocratic status of the Malays (Ackerman 1988:11, 30). Independence was seen as a Malay – and therefore Muslim – issue, rather than Christian (Hastings 1999:408). When Malaysia gained independence in 1957, there were predictions of racial or religious wars (Heim 2004:30). For a long time, differences in language and culture caused rifts “between the Muslims and Chinese, which [erupted] into violence in both societies” (Ahmed 2007:86). One reason is that the perceived success of the ethnic Chinese in generating wealth led other groups to feel threatened, even resulting in loss of lives (Chua 2003). Islamic Revivalism The dakwah (call to action) movement started in the early 1970s from an extremist minority “pressing for radical Islamic reforms and the formation of an Islamic state” (Johnstone 1993:366). Discriminatory legislation and actions against non-Muslims increased, contributing to the country’s stress level, as non-Muslims “[suffer] a creeping erosion of religious freedom” (Johnstone 1993:366; Chong 2006:27-28). With the dakwah movement, a pronounced shift in Islamic identity took place (Gatsiounis 2006:80). On the international front, more involvement in Islamic organizations and affairs were also established (Braswell 1996:197). One of the catalysts for the dakwah movement was the Chinese-Malay racial riots in 1969 dubbed the “May 13 incident” (Gatsiounis 2006:80), which resulted in the declaration of national emergency. In the aftermath, the government resolved to translate Malay constitutional 5
  8. 8. privileges into actual policies, and with that, an entrenchment clause came to be applied to 1 portions of the Malaysian Constitution. This clause, ketuanan Melayu (Malay superiority), instituted privileges especially for the Malay majority. This became a turning point in ethnic relations, which directly impacted Muslim-Christian relations in the country until today (Kana 2004:56). Towards Dialogue The Malaysian government emphasizes moderation and economic equity to keep peace between Malay Muslims and other groups, at the same time Malay interests “have always been central to government policy” (Gatsiounis 2006:78). Even before independence, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) championed a positive discrimination policy, and for a Malaysia ruled by Malays who have special rights and privileges (Kamarulnizam 2003:117). This policy can be associated with some features of traditional dhimmi (protected minority groups) status the Malaysian government prescribed for non-Muslims; one way in which positive discrimination is carried out is the enforcing of a quota structure reserving government positions and university spots for Malays (Heim 2004:31). Needless to say, there has been discontentment from non-Muslims, who feel that the Islamization program of the government “[benefits] exclusively only one racial group” and results in further encroachment upon their rights (Kana 2004:64; Mutalib 1993:107). This has increased the gap between Malay Muslims and other groups, making national integration an even more difficult task (Ackerman 1988). Mahathir’s famous declaration in 2001 that Malaysia was an Islamic state further heightened the fears of non-Muslims (Chong 2006:37). The number 1 An entrenchment clause of a constitution is a provisional clause that restricts certain amendments, and in certain cases, makes portions of that constitution irrevocable once adopted; the only exception is the assertion of the right of revolution. In the case of the Malaysian Constitution, Articles 152, 153, 181, and Part III of the Constitution were entrenched, reinforced by the amendment of Article 159(5) prohibiting amendment of these Articles as well as Article 159(5) itself (right of revolution applies). 6
  9. 9. of minorities choosing private education grew, as more and more public schools were impacted by Islamization. The rise of Islamic resurgence undoubtedly also witnessed religious revivalism from the non-Muslims; perhaps accelerated by the perceived threat of the government’s Islamization policy, the Malaysian Church sought collaboration as a reaction (Ackerman 1988:406; Kana 2004:108). Within this climate, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism (MCCBCHS) was formed in 1983 as an inter-religious organization that serves as a united non-Muslim front. Ironically, the society seemed “more religiously conservative and intolerant” while contending for religious freedom, so that tension also grew between the conservative and progressive Muslims, who wished for greater unity with non- Muslims (Anwar 2001:239, 250). In an effort to simultaneously grasp Islam and modernity during the 1990s, one of the initiatives taken by the government to improve racial and inter-religious relations for the sake of national integration was identifying deficiencies in the Malay Muslim community (Chong 2006:33-34). Institutions such as Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) were established, whose task is “to find some common ground between Muslims and non-Muslims, academics and businessmen, Malays, Chinese and foreign investors” (Chong 2006:34). After being named Prime Minister in 2003, Abdullah Badawi, Mahathir’s successor, introduced a political and ideological campaign known as Islam Hadhari (Gatsiounis 2006:78). In 2004, the wide media coverage the World Council of Churches meeting held in Kuala Lumpur received was an unprecedented experience for the Malaysian church (Heim 2004:30). These are some of the significant steps the government has taken towards promoting unity. Nevertheless, the Muslims showed little interest to dialogue with the Christians; in fact, a high level of suspicion exists between these two groups (Northcott 1991:66). 7
  10. 10. CHAPTER 3 ISLAM HADHARI What is Islam Hadhari? Islam Hadhari, or “civilizational Islam,” is an approach that emphasizes development, consistent with the tenets of Islam, and is focused on enhancing the quality of life (Badawi 2006:3). Stressing “technological and economic competitiveness, moderation, tolerance, and social justice”, Badawi speaks of Islam Hadhari not as a new religion or mazhab (school of jurisprudence) but rather a continuing attempt to “bring the [Ummah] back in touch with the true essence of Islam” (Gatsiounis 2006:78), as prescribed in the Quran and Hadith that form the foundation of Islamic civilization (Bashir 2005). As such, it is a campaign to promote a progressive Islamic civilization, compatible with modernity and yet rooted in the values of Islam that calls for moderation and tolerance towards others regardless of religion (Badawi 2005). The Ten Principles of the Islam Hadhari Framework Islam Hadhari, as introduced by Badawi, aims to achieve the following principles: 1. Faith and piety in Allah 2. A just and trustworthy government 3. A free and independent people 4. Mastery of knowledge 5. Balanced and comprehensive economic development 8
  11. 11. 6. A good quality of life 7. Protection of rights of minority groups and women 8. Cultural and moral integrity 9. Protection of the environment 10. Strong defenses Quoting Badawi, Bashir states that these principles “were formulated with the intention of ensuring peace between groups, while able to empower Muslims to face the global challenges of today” (Bashir 2005). Articulation of Islam Hadhari Under Badawi This idea of a “progressive” Islam, Chong writes, “has been a recurring feature of the Malaysian political landscape since the early 1970s” (Chong 2006:26). Mahathir Mohamad, the prime minister whom Badawi succeeded, had also articulated “a vision of progressive Islam that is open to cultural and economic innovation (Heim 2004:30). Badawi, however, articulates Islam Hadhari not simply as a political instrument but also as a campaign to tackle the rise of extremism, particularly after September 11, while Muslim nations worldwide struggle to reconcile Islamic piety with modern realities (Gatsiounis 2006:79). Nevertheless, a main critique of Islam Hadhari is its weak implementation. The ten principles were not clearly implemented or formally practiced. Most of its promotion was by means of “seminars, state-run press and speeches by the prime minister” (Gatsiounis 2006:82). So shallow was its promotion, that “most Malaysians would be hard-pressed to name [a couple] of [its] 10 points” (Gatsiounis 2006:82). 9
  12. 12. Reactions to Islam Hadhari Notably, among the “East Asian Tigers…whose rates of economic growth have exceeded” that of any other country in the last decade, Malaysia is the only Muslim- majority country (Goddard 2000:238). However, many Malays felt they were not sharing in this success, and a growing number saw Islam as the way to restore justice and righteousness (Gatsiounis 2006:81). Along with that, the dakwah movement fed the notion that Islamic values were “irreconcilable with Western notions of progress” (Gatsiounis 2006:81). With the opposition party Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) accusing UMNO of being un-Islamic, it was hoped that Islam Hadhari would safeguard Muslim followers’ allegiance to UMNO, the ruling party (Gatsiounis 2006:82). This means ketuanan Melayu must also be upheld, i.e. the privileged status of Malay Muslims. Although some observers denounced Islam Hadhari for being vague in its discourse (Chong 2006:42), others consider its vagueness to be its strength – “to be vague is to be inclusive” (Gatsiounis 2006:82). For them, Islam Hadhari provides an accessible point for arguing that Muslims need not support the full implementation of sharia law or the prescriptive nature of fundamentalism in order to be consistent with the tenets of Islam.12 In that way, it differs from political Islam, as seen in the rule of Ayatollah Khomeini (Bashir 2005). In contrast to this are those who argue that, despite Malaysia’s reputation as a model Islamic democracy, links to terrorism remain unchecked. Despite the fact that the government has publicly opposed Islamic extremists, some groups have been reported for using Malaysia as the launching pad for several attacks in other countries, e.g. al- Qaeda (Heim 2004:30). Many of the jihadi websites can be traced to Malaysia (Roy 2004:53). 1 Interview with Robert W. Hefner, Associate Director of the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs, Boston University (as quoted in Gatsiounis, Islam Hadhari in Malaysia, 82-83). 2 Interview with Robert W. Hefner, Associate Director of the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs, Boston University (as quoted in Gatsiounis, Islam Hadhari in Malaysia, 82-83). 10
  13. 13. CHAPTER 4 ISLAM HADHARI FOR MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN RELATIONS Bridging the Divide via Islam Hadhari Politicians have used race and religion in Malaysia’s racially charged climate to make advances (Gatsiounis 2006:85). For a God-fearing government, such abuses ought not to occur. Certainly, Islam Hadhari can be embraced as an Islamization ideology if one chooses, regardless whether its introduction was intended for such a purpose. But with the challenge of globalization, diversity in schools of thought (or faith and culture) cannot be suppressed. To champion progressiveness or economic equity, while maintaining piety towards God, is much more complex than disputing against a particular race and religion. Some argue that the Islamic religion was heterogenous to begin with, and that differences within the Ummah were perceived as a blessing rather than division (Lubis 2005:91). This is a similar experience in the Christian tradition. We do well to consider this: the real threat of Islam and Christianity is not each other, but the secularization of society and the abuse of political power (Chapman 1998:58-9). Islam Hadhari’s emphasis on broader principles of Islam over religiosity and form, as stated by Badawi, aims to develop the global mindset of Malay Muslims (Chong 2006:41). The support given towards Islam Hadhari by certain groups of Muslims demonstrates a willingness on these Muslims’ part to participate in nation-building without abusing the ketuanan Melayu clause, despite criticism by fellow Muslims for doing so. Along these lines, the Malaysian government can be commended for attempting to formulate, albeit vaguely, “a plan to reconcile modernity with the Islamic faith” (Gatsiounis 2006:87). As Malaysian Christians, who are mostly non-Malays, we can encourage these Muslims, our fellow Malaysians, to develop their skills and expertise as 11
  14. 14. part of the global arena, “without being accused of being un-Islamic” and so that they do not merely depend on state handouts (Chong 2006:41). This is in line with Islam Hadhari principles that Badawi outlined. We can bridge the divide between Muslims and Christians based on these main principles, to speak for godliness, morality, tolerance, justice and poverty alleviation. Rather than bridging only for the sake of nation-building, the greater good is to recognize we are closer in our belief of the Creator than other religions (Rippin 2001:11; Ali 2007, Sura 42:13). How should Christians respond to Islam Hadhari according to the Holy Scriptures? This question is definitely worth exploring in dialogue. Identity of the Dhimmi Undeniably, non-Muslim religious minorities face difficulty in Malaysia (Heim 2004:31). As a marginal minority, the Malaysian Christian community faces formidable challenges in an increasingly Islamic context (Kana 2004:103). Christians are “the most affected and vulnerable to pressures exerted by a powerful government” (Ng 1992:36; 70). By virtue of the recognition of the Malay majority (which is predominantly Muslim) as having a special status as stated in the ketuanan Melayu clause, all other racial groups are therefore granted lesser rights and privileges. This then, when applied, elevates the status of Malay Muslims at the expense of other races, and subsequently, other religious groups, rather than providing protection or equality for the dhimmi. One of the ten principles of Islam Hadhari is the protection of rights of minority groups (see above). If the dhimmah in Hadith tradition is to be interpreted as a universal governing principle based on honor and genuine tolerance, not lordship or superiority, then this is not to confer an inferior status on non-Muslims (Ayoub 2007:37; 101-2; see also Chapman 1998:33). The Injil (Gospels) also teaches us to serve and protect others and to show kindness; the dhimmah system can be likened to the injunction God gave to 12
  15. 15. Israel in the treatment of ‘foreigners and aliens’ among them (Barker 1985 - Mk 10:42- 44; Ex 23:9; Lev 19:34). A foremost reason the Israelites were to worship the LORD their God was that he would be exalted among the nations, and they will know that he is God, even though they were small in number (Ps 46:10). Mazhar speaks of enabling Muslims to “see Christ”, by demonstration through his followers (Chandler 2007:83). The Imperative of Dakwah In Islam, the Arabic word dakwah is best understood ‘to call to action’ (Kana 2004:62). It carries connotations that are individual and collective; people respond to the message of Islam, and the community that forms the Ummah thus has the obligation of ‘calling’. In the work of dakwah, there must be respect and free exchange of ideas, if that dakwah is to be “legitimately regarded as an act of worship” (Kettani 1990:228). Within the context of Malaysia, dakwah is highly associated with the resurgence of Islam, as dakwah groups like Jamaat Tabligh and Darul Arqam were missionary in outlook, calling the individual and the society to closer adherence to Islam as they interpreted it (Kana 2004:62). On the part of the Christians, the calling of others to the faith is popularly called ‘evangelism’. As mentioned, evangelism among Muslims is prohibited as per legal restrictions specified in the Constitution. Christians in their zealous response to the call to evangelize Muslims have, by their attempts, been summoned by the Internal Security Act and suffered hostility (Batumalai 1996:127). Batumalai, in Muhibbah, speaks of greater sensitivity and patience towards Muslims, even as Christians remain faithful in demonstrating muhibbah (a sense of kinship, friendship, love and warmth) to their neighbors (Rustam 2009). 13
  16. 16. The Inevitability of Dialogue If Christians resist the implementation of the Syariah law on non-Muslims, should they in turn avoid aggressive proclamation of the Gospel which at times lead to the treatment of our neighbors of other faiths as objects of evangelism (Batumalai 1996:357)? This is a hard question. As far as the Church is concerned, in order to sustain itself under Malay Muslim polity, dialogue is inevitable: “The challenge now and in the future is for Christians to engage positively in a “dialogue of life” with their neighbors of other faiths. This allows for sharing of mutual concerns over religious freedom whilst genuinely striving, at the same time, to live in the spirit of the government’s declared vision to make Malaysia a caring, liberal and just society” (Kana 2004:112). From our discussion so far, we have come to understand a little more the history of Muslim-Christian relations in Malaysia. The participation of Church to in what Kana calls “dialogue of life” cannot just serve the sake of resolving religious conflicts as we have seen from past reactions, but for the solidarity and integral development of Malaysian society. This kind of interaction is beyond verbal dialogue, but one of exchange, gift-giving, opening of hearts and reciprocal mutuality. For Malaysian Christians, the lack of understanding often breeds fear and resentment towards the privileged Other, the one that is protected by ketuanan Melayu. But Jabbour invites us to move towards understanding the Muslims, for “understanding triggers compassion and makes acceptance possible” (Jabbour 2008:14). Consider again the Islam Hadhari ideology. Does faith and piety in Allah require of us more than conversions? Using Bosch’s missionary paradigm, the interrelationship between dialogue and mission is where we can rediscover the “integrally dialogical nature” of mission (Bosch 1991:483, 487). To borrow Islamic terms for Christian mission, can true dakwah happen without dialogue? If true dakwah is an act of worship, then dialogue is to be inseparable from the act of dakwah. 14
  17. 17. SUMMARY The global resurgence of democracy poses an incredible challenge to countries “with a multiethnic fabric”; Malaysia is one such country (Mohammadi 2002:96). There is increasing external pressure to adjust to global standards of democracy and universal human rights. Now, with a new Prime Minister having succeeded Abdullah Badawi, the ideology of Islam Hadhari seems to have been sidelined, particularly amidst the political upheaval the nation has been undergoing since 2008. Even if the term “Islam Hadhari” has been replaced or discarded, the ideology behind it remains. To the interests of Muslim groups that champion progressive Islam in Malaysia and its economic development, the principles are still relevant. But what does it mean for the Christian community? What can she learn from interacting with Islam Hadhari’s principles and its implications on her relationship with its Muslim neighbors, who are also the privileged Other under ketuanan Melayu? At this moment, the Church has yet to demonstrate united willingness to participate in interfaith dialogue with Muslims over racial-religious conflicts that have so deeply impacted the non-Muslim population in Malaysia, much less play an active role in reconciliation and muhibbah for the integral development of the nation. Maybe, this move towards genuine dialogue will take much time and effort, and we see this beginning to take shape as more Christians are participating in conversation with Muslims for the benefit of Malaysian society. The blessings that can emerge from such a move will surely go beyond the nation’s borders, when there emerges true demonstration of faith and piety, in loving God and neighbor, as we love ourselves. 15
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