THE “centre of gravity” of the Muslim world will shift from the Middle East to Southeast Asia in the next 20 years, a well-known Islamic scholar said yesterday.
Speaking during a public lecture titled “Islam and the New ASEAN Community” at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD), Tan Sri Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan said the economic, political and social resources of the Middle East are drained.“I feel that given the chaos, the turmoil in the Middle East, the uncertainties and atrocities after the Arab Spring. What we have is not a spring but an eruption which has destroyed so much,” he later told The Brunei Times in an interview.
As half of ASEAN’s 600 million people are Muslims, countries like Brunei and Indonesia can lead the shift in moral and intellectual authority to Southeast Asia, he said.
“Brunei can be moral exemplar. How I see the possibility of Brunei playing a leading role is because religious values are being integrated, and corruption is low,” said the International Islamic University Malaysia professor.
“Although the sultanate is small, it can still lead because it is blessed with political and economic stability. A larger country like Indonesia can complement this by providing intellectual and academic leadership.”
Dr Mohd Kamal added that corruption and a culture of complacency are problems that plague the Muslim world, but what distinguishes ASEAN is its inter-communal relations.
“We have always lived with non-Muslims as our neighbours… there may be some political problems but we still respect people of other religions.”
“The cultural qualities of Southeast Asian people – the tolerance, the dynamism – Middle Eastern people should be looking at Southeast Asian people as the carriers of the humanitarian promise of Islam.”
Dr Mohd Kamal will be delivering a second public lecture at UBD’s chancellor hall today on Malay Islamic civilisation.
The Brunei Times
Tuesday, November 3, 2015