KUALA LUMPUR - Peace and harmony in ASEAN can only be maintained through moderation, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Paul Low.
Speaking at the ASEAN People's Forum 2015, he said moderation in the context of ASEAN was defined as values and acts that were in direct contrast with extremism.
"With ASEAN having Muslims and Buddhists making up 80 per cent of its population, moderation is a social imperative and a matter in which failure to achieve a right balance can be catastrophic," said Low.
Extremism, he said, was synonymous with fanaticism, radicalism, zealotry, fundamentalism, dogmatism, bigotry and militancy.
"The essence of these extreme views and ideology is that, 'I know it all, I know what is right, and if you are different then you don't know anything'."
Low said extremist beliefs vilified and denigrated the humanity of others and drew deep lines of separation between "who we are" and "those other people".
Low said moderation in its true sense provided the platform for all believers to be firmly convicted in the tenets of their faith, live full lives and at the same time live in peace and harmony with others whose belief may be different.
"Ultimately, extremists reject these rights because they reject everyone else except their narrow viewpoint.
"Worse still, they work very hard to force people using coercion to make others conform to their views and ideologies."
On another matter, Low said ASEAN governments should find a balance between maintaining security and protecting civil liberties.
He said while there should not be selective prosecution of those who criticised those in authority, governments had a responsibility to deal with genuine security threats, including terrorism.
He added that it was also important for ASEAN members to put in place practices of good governance and deal with corruption effectively, pointing that the root cause of unrest in certain countries was not just politics or economy but the lack of integrity.
"Because there is no good governance, economies are monopolised, causing great disparity between the rich and the poor, and this is a formula that will lead to failed states," Low said.
"I hope for ASEAN not to go down that path and that is why it is important that member states ensure that good governance and high integrity are in place."