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ICC Note: While Malaysia is not a country without Islamic persecution of Christians it is relatively moderate and we applaud Badawi’s leadership on trying to moderate Islam and its effects on Christians around the globe.

Malaysia leader steps up drive for moderate Islam

Jill Hamid

3/16/07 Malaysia (Fro the full story, go to Reuters) – Malaysia ‘s leader, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, stepped up a drive on Friday to promote his own brand of moderate Islam, taking a swipe at cynics who fear his message is being subverted by Islamic conservatives.

Badawi, is an Islamic scholar whose voice of moderation has won admirers abroad, is battling a tide of Islamic conservatism at home that threatens to undermine his own agenda.

Speaking in his hometown to promote “Islam Hadhari” or “contemporary Islam,” his answer to the more extreme Jihadi brands of Islam seen in the Middle East , Abdullah said Muslims should reject the narrow view of Islam in order to make progress.

Abdullah told a press conference that even the non-Malay parties in the ruling coalition had accepted Islam Hadhari.

“It’s a big mistake to criticize something which I consider to be good and which has been accepted by many,” he said. “We have no ulterior motive.”

Dozens of government departments and private firms set up stalls at the exhibition to offer products and services ranging from herbal coffee to Islamic insurance in a carnival-like atmosphere. Organizers say they expect to draw 500,000 visitors.

Abdul Rahim, a 56-year old former teacher, who visited the event, disagreed with Abdullah.

“This is not true Islam,” Abdul said. “This is a new form of Islam which has deviated from the real teachings.”

Abdullah’s comments about narrow views come just a month after he rebuked an official of a northern state who had proposed to hire Islamic “spies” to snoop on unmarried Muslim couples and help enforce Islamic law.

The official in question had been tasked with implementing Islam Hadhari in the state.

Recently, the self-declared “Islamic city” of Kota Baru vowed to fine non-Muslim women who dressed in revealing clothes.

In his speech, Abdullah said the government would try to export the concept of Islam Hadhari to other countries to help spread the message of moderate Islam.

He did not name the countries, but officials said hot spots such as southern Thailand could be a target.

“We can play the role as a respected peacemaker,” Abdullah said. “We want Islam Hadhari to be a tool for Muslims around the world to spread the message that Islam can be a progressive religion without losing its universal values,” he said.

Abdullah, who derives much of his thinking from Ibn Khaldun, a noted 14th century Islamic scholar, has also woven the principles of Islam Hadhari into national development programs, including a plan to turn Malaysia into a developed state by 2020.

“The seed that we plant today will be enjoyed by future generations,” he said. “I don’t care what people say.”