Malaysia calls for creation of a ‘global movement of moderates’ to combat extremists

By Ali Akbar Dareini, AP
Monday, September 27, 2010

Malaysia calls for moderation to fight extremists

UNITED NATIONS — Malaysia’s prime minister called Monday for creation of a “global movement of moderates” from all faiths to marginalize extremists from all religions.

Najib Razak said terrorist activities carried out by extremist Muslim militants such as al-Qaida members have nothing to do with Islam the same way the burning of Islam’s holy book, the Quran, by extremist Christians has nothing to do with Christianity.

“The real issue is not between Muslims and non-Muslims but between the moderates and extremists of all religions, be it Islam, Christianity or Judaism,” he said in an address to the U.N. General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting.

Razak said all religions have inadvertently allowed “the ugly voices on the periphery to drown out the many voices of reason and common sense.”

“I therefore urge us to embark on building a ‘Global Movement of the Moderates’ from all faiths who are committed to work together to combat and marginalize extremists who have held the world hostage with their bigotry and bias,” the Malaysian leader said.

He said Malaysia, a moderate Muslim-majority country, is multiracial, multi-religious, multicultural and democratic. Mosques, temples, churches and other places of worship “coexist in harmony,” and although Islam is the official religion, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and other religious celebrations are national holidays and celebrated as national events, he said.

Razak said fueling Islamophobia as a reaction to Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. was only angering Muslims around the world who have condemned the attacks and shared their sympathy with the victims.

He said there was no fight among religions but between moderates and extremists of all religions.

“Attempts to demonize Islam offend the one and a half billion adherents of the religion. It intensifies the divide between the broad Muslim world and the West,” he said.

A Quran desecration on the ninth anniversary of Sept. 11, the day Islamist extremists flew planes into the World Trade Center and killed nearly 2,800 people, infuriated Muslims worldwide. Muslims consider the Quran to be sacred, and any intentional damage or show of disrespect to the Quran is deeply offensive.

The Quran desecration occurred after Pastor Terry Jones, leader of a small Christian congregation in Gainesville, Florida, announced his plans to burn copies of the Islamic holy book to mark the Sept. 11 anniversary but called off his plan at the last minute. However, video was posted on the Internet later of Quran copies burned elsewhere.

Tensions over Islam have flared recently in the United States, driven by the controversy over a proposed Islamic center near the World Trade Center site and protests against Quran burning.

Razak praised Christian moderates who worked to prevent the Quran burning.

“We are heartened to note that a group of American Evangelical Christians had worked tirelessly to prevent the threatened burning of the Quran with the compelling argument that it is in fact un-Christian to burn the Quran. This is a clear example of what can be achieved when moderates in each faith stand up to the extremists that are trying to hijack the universal values of our religions,” he said.

“We must urgently reclaim the center and the moral high ground that has been usurped from us,” Razak said. “We must choose moderation over extremism. We must choose negotiations over confrontation. We must choose to work together and not against each other. And we must give this effort utmost priority for time is not on our side.”

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