Islamic scholars and clerics from Malaysia and Indonesia have formed a joint secretariat to battle extremist ideology.
Yesterday, 55 of them pledged to come up with a concrete masterplan by September to promote the version of Islam practised by both countries, one based on principles of balance, justice and fairness.
The agreement came at a four-hour forum on "Malaysia-Indonesia unity in tackling extremism", opened by Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on the last day of his three-day visit to Jakarta.
"We agreed not to dialogue and discuss anymore but take immediate action because the threat to Islam is real," Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, president of the Islamic Da'wah Foundation Malaysia, who organised the event, told The Straits Times.
Malaysia and Indonesia should take the lead in this effort as their combined population is home to the majority of Muslims in the world who practise a form of Islam that is more "dynamic" than that in the Middle East, he said.
In his speech yesterday, Tan Sri Muhyiddin said: "Muslims in Malaysia and Indonesia have to stand firm on the principle of wasatiyyah - as required by the true teachings of Islam, to reject extreme religious practices."
While both countries practise a tolerant type of Islam, the authorities are concerned over the threat of extremism and the reach of terror groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), after small numbers of their citizens were detected to have joined ISIS or were detained upon their return.
To lure aspiring militants here, ISIS formed a military unit comprising Malaysians and Indonesians, and recently posted a video of Malay-speaking children in military training.
The formation of the secretariat also comes after Indonesia's National Counter-Terrorism Agency chief Saud Usman Nasution said there was an urgency to work through informal channels first with their Malaysian counterparts to prevent aspiring militants from using Malaysia as a transit point to get to ISIS-held territories or return to recruit terrorist fighters.
At yesterday's discussion, participants said there was a need to reclaim the narratives on Islam and counter misperceptions, as well as actively reject extremist views and reject the tendency to associate extremism and terrorism with Islam.
"Those symptoms of Islamophobia, if left without rebuttal, will contribute to a climate of animosity between Muslims and non-Muslims," read one of the seven points in a joint resolution issued yesterday.
Another of the resolutions is that religious teaching should show how extremist ideas run counter to the real teachings of Islam. The resolution also advocates use of the law to effectively curb the spread of extremist ideology.
"From the very beginning, the young need to get right what is this Islamic world view, not just simply understand literal text or follow misleading interpretations without clearer understanding of its context," said Dr Asyraf.
"Indonesians and Malaysians, being the majority of the world's Muslims, should take the lead in shaping the real image of Islam."
This article was first published on April 10, 2015.
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