the Kuala Lumpur Summit is a minimum or ad hoc version of the
Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), an event summoned immediately
due to extra ordinary circumstances affecting the Muslim world, the
organisers have unwittingly enhanced the “Muafakat National” of Umno of
These two entities have nothing to contribute to national and
international issues except to prey on the religious and racial
sentiments of the Malays and Muslims, by extension, the Islamic world.
what is ostensibly a summit to augment the geopolilitical standing of
Pakatan Harapan on “Islamic” issues have, ironically, and paradoxically,
given “Muafakat Nasional” a second and third leash of life. Empowering
the opposition is indeed a noble idea in a democracy. As all democracies
do need an alternative challenger to serve as a check and balance. But
“Muafakat Nasional” in Malaysia is wrongly guided to manipulate the
views of Malays and Muslims. They don’t need any “assist” if at all. If
anything, they need an immediate “put down” intellectually.
global Muslim leaders converging in Kuala Lumpur from December 17-18,
such as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Vice President of Indonesian
Amir Maaruf Amin, and Sheikh Amir Al Hamad Al Thamrin of Qatar, not
excluding Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan too, it seems like a
strategic event too.
But if Kuala Lumpur Summit were to become an
effective amplifier of all the issues of war, peace and Islamphobia
that affect the Muslim world, more thoughts have to be given to ensure
their agenda are not hijacked by wrong nationalist-religious groups.
Thus there is a need to focus on tangible actions that can unite the
Muslim world as an Alliance of Muslim Nations rather than mere public
Top Muslim and non Mulsim scholars such as
Professor Cemil Aydin, with a PhD in Middle Eastern and Japanese Studies
from Harvard University, who is now based at University of North
Carolina, should be given a listen; as is Professor Ho Eng Seng, a world
class expert on Yemini issues, who interestingly hails from Malaysia.
The list could include Professor John Esposito at Georgetown University
and Professor Fawaz Gerwez, at the London School of Economics as well,
all of whom have devoted their academic lives to understanding the
weaknesses of the Muslim world. Even Professor KS Jomo, a former member
of the Council of Eminent Persons, who has written on Islamic revivalism
in the 1980s before, should be kept in, rather than left out
completely. A summit is as good as the “mind melt” that comes during and
after the meeting, not the mere completion of the stand alone event;
which makes it a one-off catharsis.
KL Summit, as this is written,
also seems to ignore the lessons accumulated at the Alliance of
Civilizations (AoC) at the United Nations. AoC was pioneered by Spain
and Turkey between 2002-2015. A co-sponsor of KL Summit would have to be
found in the future. Although one would hope that President Hassan
Rouhani of Iran, would also revive the importance of the “Dialogue of
Civilizations”, once pioneered by his predecessor President Ali Khameni
too; which again can come under the Kuala Lumpur Summit. Indeed, the
Muslim World, if KL Summit is supposed to be a microcosm of it, is
commercially lacked the right depth to talk to each other bilaterally or
multilaterally. If the high dialogue is confined to Malaysia,
Indonesia, Qatar, Iran and Pakistan, to make the Muslim world more
dynamic, all round trade must still be emphasised first to ensure high
Yet, none of the five countries above trade
widely. And if Iran is brought into the picture, one is confronted with
the international sanctions, with which it still faces — putting a kink
into the whole process of the KL Summit. Indeed, as recent as a month
ago, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed confesses that Iranians
living in Malaysia are now pressured by external forces not to have the
basic privilege of even having a credit card or bank account in the
country. Such sanctions confront any Muslim or non Muslim countries that
want to trade with Iran.
Can Kuala Lumpur Summit address such a
complex issue across the Mulsim world? One would have to assume in the
negative right now, as the list of attendants in the Kuala Lumpur Summit
did not include anyone from United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia, let
alone the Kingdom of Oman, especially representatives who can speak on
behalf of Sultan Al Qaboos. The latter has done an excellent job of
balancing the Sunni-Shia rivalry despite being caught in the middle of
the Sunni-Shia quagmire.
Kuala Lumpur Summit seems to have
included Rachid Al Ghanouchi, who believes in the concept of a “Muslim
Democrat,” in the Ummah — not unlike the noticeable absentees Datuk Seri
Anwar Ibrahim or Tan Sri Muyiddin Yassin of Malaysia. But the very
inclusion of Rachid Ghanouchi of En Nahdah Party in Tunisia also clashes
with President Mohammed El Sissi of Egypt.
Therefore, the key is
not to stage the whole summit into a diplomatic theatric without further
forethought in future. Otherwise, the whiplash effect can be another
“Maruah Melayu,” which alienated non Muslims in Malaysia. The latter
felt completely left out from the whole event if not insulted since a
majority of Muslims had backed Pakatan Harapan to be in office.
things are, the Kuala Lumpur Summit appears to be an event that seeks
to strengthen the relationship of Malaysia, Indonesia, Qatar, Turkey,
Pakistan and Iran, not excluding some central republics such as
Turkemenistan, where Petronas wants to consolidate its commercial
relationship in oil and gas exploration. But nothing more but talk and
more talk will emerge if Kuala Lumpur Summit does not first acknowledge
that trade between and within Muslim countries remain low.
This would then be a rehash of the problems of the Muslim world and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) since 1967.
of today, the entire Muslim world only contributes 5 per cent to the
total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the whole world. If one removes
oil and gas from the trade matrix, the numerical figure will go down to
as low as less than 3 per cent.
Kuala Lumpur Summit may try to be
the the Helsinki of Asia, as the late Tan Sri Nordin Sopiee at the
Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) once called it,
but it must be genuine, and not staged just for the sake of staging it.
In sum, if Kuala Lumpur Summit can point to a direction to trade more
and fight less, especially in fields and sectors that are not in the
sunset industries, the event would have been a pivotal success.
shall have to see how the organiser of the Kuala Lumpur Summit, which
is the Malaysian government, avoid the trappings of previous failures.
Not forgetting, even Helsinki itself has been eclipsed by the great
power rivalry of Russia and The North Atlantic Treaty Organization
One wonders if the organiser of the Kuala Lumpur Summit
would in future understand, not merely the complexities of the Muslim
world alone, but in relation to the non-Muslim community too.
the very least, the Kuala Lumpur Summit must be able to talk about the
problem of Uyghur Muslims in China, Rohingya refugees trapped in Cox’s
Bazaar in Bangladesh, and the growth of Hindu nationalistic fascism in
India. It is a long list and a tall order. Kuala Lumpur Summit, as all
summits dictate, must come up with real solutions not lofty rhetoric
anymore. Perhaps, KL Summit may surprise all by coming out with
resolutions that are pragmatic and workable solutions. You will never
know. But as it stays now, it looks more like a gathering for an end of
the year party amongst few selected friends!
Dr. Rais Hussin is President & CEO of EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.