Assalamu’alaikum Wr. Wb.
Dr. Muhammad Bin Saad Al-Salim, Rector of the Islamic University of Imam Muhammad Bin Sa’ud
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I thank Allah SWT for this wonderful opportunity to visit the Islamic University of Imam Muhammad Bin Sa’ud. The splendid reputation of this University is known all around the world, including in my country Indonesia.
They say that you can see the spirit of a nation in its architecture. Well, I believe I speak for my whole delegation in expressing our admiration for the breath-taking design of your University : very Islamic, very modern, very uplifting.
More important than architecture, of course, is intellectual resource. Here too, I am enamored by the standard of academic excellence that is the hallmark of the University of Imam Muhammad Bin Sa’ud.
This is the way muslims should be : strong in iman, proud of our heritage, driven by knowledge, basking in progress and prosperity.
After all, Islam is all about revelation, about enlightenment, about liberation, about empowerment. That was true at the time of our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW. And that is true today.
But sadly, while we rejoice in seeing pockets of progress and prosperity throughout the muslim world, we still see pockets of poverty, deprivation and scarcity amongst the Ummah worldwide.
The fact is : a considerable portion of the muslim world are still lagging behind in terms of worldwide socio-economic progress.
Look at the world’s 25 biggest economies. You have the United States of America at the top of the list with a GDP of about US$ 11 trillion dollars. In the top 25, there are only 3 muslim majority countries : Turkey, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
Look at the world’s top trading nations. No muslim country is in the top 10 or top 20 traders.
Look at the world’s human development index, and here again, you will find no muslim country in the top 10, top 20 or top 30 best performing nations. Only if you expand the list to the top 50, you will find 5 muslim societies--Brunei, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and United Arab Emirates--straddling between rank 33 and 47.
And global competitiveness ? Well, of the top 20 most competitive countries, there is not a single muslim country.
Indeed, many muslim societies worry more about survival than they do about competitiveness.
According to UNICEF, over 4,3 million children under 5 in OIC countries die each year from preventable disease and malnutrition.
I was particularly concerned to learn that every 30 minutes, an Afghan woman dies of childbirth, and that in the African sub-region 1 out 15 pregnancies ends in death, a huge difference from the global average of 1 death out of 74 pregnancies.
Many Muslim children also face a difficult life. In 17 OIC countries, primary school education is less than 60 %.
On top of this, there are 8 million adult HIV cases in African OIC countries.
Indeed, as we crossed into the 21st century and into the Third Millennium, many muslim societies are experiencing problems dealing with globalization. They see globalization all around them, including in their living room, they know globalization is here to stay, and they know they will see more of it.
But few understand globalization, let alone how to deal with it.
Few understand how to find a place, a niche, in the new, confusing globalized world.
And few understand that, apart from its negative effects, globalization also provides opportunities that can be harnessed for societies to leap in its development efforts.
Apart from socio-economic issues, the Ummah is also burdened by continuing conflicts and bloodshed. We see restlessness and displacement in many parts of the muslim world, especially among the youth. And the specter of terrorism and extremism continue to haunt our communities.
We also face a growing trend of Islamophobia, the fear of Islam. The recent cartoon crisis demonstrates the lack of tolerance and respect shown towards Islam.
All in all, not a pretty picture, I admit. But herein lies the challenge for the Ummah. The Ummah of today has the distinction of belonging to the Ummah of the Third Millennium. But to meet the challenge of the Third Millennium, the Ummah must stop blaming ourselves, and blaming others, for our problems and for our misfortunes. The Ummah must proactively and constructively the plight of global injustice, ignorance and backwardness that are often found in the muslim world and serve as breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism.
The solution to our problems depends on us, and begins with us, the Ummah.
But what can the muslim world do ? Well, there is plenty that can be done. Let me offer several useful constructive suggestions for the Ummah of the Third Millennium.
I begin with this point : the ummah must embrace technology and modernity, and they must be driven by a culture of excellence. Islam is not just a religion of peace, it is also a religion of progress. Remember : this is how Islam spread from a religion in this part of the world to become the world’s greatest civilization by the 13th century, much more advanced at the time than the civilizations in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
When the Ummah crossed the first millennium, they had already built the University of Al Azhar, built the first hospital, used the compass, built sophisticated trade vessels, and developed an extensive body of knowledge on irrigation, astronomy, navigation, chemistry, civil engineering.
But something happened along the way. While Europe basked in the Renaissance era for 400 years, the Ummah became stagnant. Over a stretch of centuries, Europe produced Galileo, Copernicus, Watt, Newton, Edison and Einstein, while at the same time, the muslim world was left behind.
Europe, not the muslim world, became the bearer of world technological innovation. In the mean time, the muslim world missed the industrial revolution, and missed the transport revolution. The muslim world did not begin the military revolution, and we certainly did not begin the information and communication revolution that is now sweeping the world.
All this teach us one critical lesson : the ummah of today must not be swept in self-doubt and isolationism. Instead, we must embrace a culture of excellence, and we must inculcate that spirit of excellence in our homes, in our classrooms, and in our communities. Globalization, according to Thomas Friedman, is creating a “flat world” with level playing field. It is not just India and China that should be the rising powers taking advantage of globalization. The muslim world too can be part of that picture.
And if the Ummah want progress, we must begin to think ahead of our time. The first muslims thought and acted way ahead of their time, and they changed the world. So did the first millennium muslims. The ummah of the Third Millennium must do the same.
The SECOND thing the Ummah can do is to be at the forefront of globalism.
I have no doubt about the ability of the Ummah to drive globalism. Remember : the ummah is 1 billion strong. And remember : muslims were among the world’s first globalizers ! It was the Ummah who spread the simple message of Islam to all the world’s continents and cultures and races and changed humanity forever !
The ummah of today must help find answers to global problems. We must be problem solvers, not problem creators !
The ummah must help their communities reach the targets of Millennium Development Goals. The muslim world must be firm and united in the global fight against terrorism, and in dealing with non-traditional security threats : financial crisis, corruption, trans-national crimes, avian flu, people smuggling, natural disasters. The muslim world must also do their bid to strengthen multilateralism, to advance UN reforms, and to promote governance in their communities.
In short, the best way for the ummah to deal with the globalized world is by becoming an active part of it.
My THIRD point is that the ummah must do better in mobilizing our diverse resources to help fellow muslims.
The OIC, for example, can play a greater role in helping to manage and resolve conflicts within the muslim world or conflicts involving muslim minorities. The OIC did this successfully when it facilitated the resolution of conflict between the Philippine Government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Indonesia was privileged to play a role in this conflict resolution on behalf of the OIC Committee of 6.
But beyond conflict resolution, there is much to be done to promote the well-being and welfare of the Ummah. The muslim world is very diverse in terms of its economic capacity and resources.
It ranges from Bangladesh with GDP per capita of US$ 350, to United Arab Emirates with GDP per capita of almost US$ 21,000.
It ranges from Cote D’ivoire with foreign reserves of 2,2 billion to Indonesia with foreign reserves of US$ 42 billion.
It ranges from Gambia with foreign debt of US$ 0,6 billion to Turkey with a foreign debt of US$ 145 billion.
It ranges from Oman with 0,6 computer per 1000 people to Bahrain with 160 computers for every 1,000 people.
We must not let these gaps divide the muslim world. Indeed, these diverse resources can be used intelligently to help spread opportunities. The OIC can play a very helpful role in closing the development gap within the muslim world. We can also do this through regional and inter-regional cooperation, as well as through bilateral cooperation.
And if we do this right, I am confident that by 2015, muslim societies worldwide will comfortably reach, if not exceed, the targets of the Millennium Developments Goals. Insya Allah !
The FOURTH point is that the ummah must reach out to non-muslims. The beauty of Islam, after all, lies in its nature as Rahmatan li al’alamin.
I do not believe that a “clash of civilization between Islam and the west is inevitable. But I also believe that Islam and the West will NOT automatically and effortlessly get along in perfect harmony. For that to happen, we need to build bridges and promote mutual understanding. The recent cartoon crisis reminds us of the ignorance and disrespect that still exist towards Islam.
This is why recently Indonesia has been actively promoting inter-faith dialogue, domestically as well as internationally. We have also hosted international conferences of Islamic scholars in which eminent educators from the universities and other institutions of higher learning are major participants. We also intend to convene an international inter-media dialogue to help bridge gaps and narrow misunderstanding between the western and non-western media.
In short, brothers and sisters, the challenges faced by the Ummah are great, but so is our ability to meet these challenges.
I do believe that in the affairs of the muslim world, and indeed in global affairs in general, the friendship between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia is assuming greater significance.
Indonesia is home to the world’s largest muslim population. Saudi Arabia is the cradle of Islamic teachings, the custodian of the two Holy Mosques, a country of tremendous symbolic and spiritual significance to the Ummah worldwide.
Both Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are frontline states in the battle against terrorism, and both of us are resolute in rejecting any links between terrorism and religion.
Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are active members of the OIC, and also are relevant players in international affairs.
And, of course, both Indonesia and Saudi Arabia resolutely support the struggle of the Palestinian people.
Let me say a few words about the Palestine issue. From the very beginning, we in Indonesia have always given our full support and solidarity to the Palestinian struggle to exercise their right of sovereignty in their own homeland with Al Quds as its capital.
With equal vigour, we have always supported the international community’s search for peace in the Middle East on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions stipulating, among many other things, the unconditional return of Israeli-occupied Arab territories.
We continue to give our full backing to the Roadmap to Peace in the Middle East that is sponsored by the Quartet of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. We remain firm advocates of the proposed solution based on two sovereign states living side by side in peace within secure, internationally guaranteed borders.
Last night, I discussed the Palestine issue with Khodimul Kharomain and I encouraged Khodimul Kharomain to continue Saudi Arabia’s key role in promoting peace and Palestinian statehood. I also informed Khodimul Kharomain of Indonesia’s intent to intensify our role in supporting the international community’s efforts to resolve the Palestine-Israeli conflict and to promote lasting peace in the Middle-East.
In sum, Indonesia should like to see a peaceful, comprehensive and negotiated solution to the issue of Palestine—while maintaining our solidarity with the Palestinian cause.
At the same time, we are now deliberating on how to increase our aid to Palestine and on the feasibility of establishing an Office of Indonesian Interest in Ramallah. We are ready, if called upon, to offer technical assistance to the Palestinian Authority on the basis of our recent experience in political institution-building and democratic transition.
The Indonesian Government will maintain close consultations with Saudi Arabia to help the cause of the Palestinian struggle and to promote peace in the Middle-East.
Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are also countries of enormous economic potentials; indeed, the size of our GDP is about the same.
I have come here to your great country expand and deepen these long-standing ties. In particular, I wish to expand our economic cooperation. Total Saudi investment in Indonesia in the last 4 years was US$ 7,5 billion. In fact,
Saudi Arabia was already the biggest foreign investor in 2004, with US$ 3 billion invested in 2004, or about 29 % of total investment. We welcome more Saudi investment in Indonesia. We also need to expand our trade. Last year, we exchanged US$ 3,23 billion of goods. It is a promising figure, but we can do a lot better given our market potentials. Remember : there are 220 million Indonesians and 24 million Saudis.
I also wish to see more Indonesians studying in Saudi Arabia. I wish to see more Saudis coming to Indonesia to teach Arabic and to help translate the vast Arabic literature into the Indonesian language so that average Indonesians can benefit from its rich ideas and knowledge.
I do hope that Indonesia and Saudi Arabia can work together and share knowledge and resources to help us cope with the complex globalized world. Our two countries can cooperate in promoting a knowledge-based economy in the muslim world. We can intensify our collaboration in research and development, in information and communication technology, in engineering, in energy development and conservation, including in bio-energy research.
Indonesia and Saudi Arabia can also intensify our cooperation in the fight against terrorism, and also to address the roots and causes of terrorism.
And finally, I wish to see Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest muslim population and the cradle of Islam, working together closely to project the right face of Islam to the world and to promote peace, prosperity and progress for the muslim world and beyond.
That is all, brothers and sisters. Thank you for honoring me with your presence here today. Peace be upon you.
Wassalammu’alaikum Wr. Wb.