Today, Palembang is a dynamic city brimming with confidence as they march towards greater progress. You can still feel their immense pride from the successful hosting of the Southeast Asian Games last year.
Let me begin by commending the Parliamentary Union of the OIC member states for the excellent work that you have done in the cause of peace and progress in the name of Islam.
Since its founding in 1999, the PUIC has grown not only in numbers but also in role and relevance in the Islamic world and the international community. You have effectively projected the conscientious voice of the Ummah as we confront political, economic and social issues of our time. And you have cemented closer solidarity between our nations. For all this, Indonesia is proud to host the seventh Conference of the PUIC and to work with all our brothers and sisters to advance our common cause.
Indeed, we will need plenty of such cooperation in the years and decades ahead.
The world is changing, and it is changing with much greater speed and uncertainty than before. Who could predict the rapid political transformations now unfolding in some Middle East and North African countries that some refer to as the Arab Spring ? Who could predict the present economic troubles in Europe ?
In the wake of these changes and uncertainties, we have only two options. First, is to close our eyes and ignore or even resist these powerful signs of the times.
And second, to anticipate them and adapt to them intelligently with the necessary courage.
The events around the world serve as reminders not only of the changing world, but of the need to adapt to the forces that are sweeping the 21st century. It reminds us to avoid the lessons of previous centuries where Muslims were relegated to the sidelines of history as Muslims became complacent of emerging developments. It reminds us of the need to be forward looking as we tackle the issues of our time.
The world in the 21st century is a world marked by connectivity and openness. It is a world marked by power shifts, not only horizontally between states but also vertically from governments to networks - of organizations, corporations and individuals. As such, we can well anticipate the continued change of political, economic and social landscapes which we are already seeing. If these changes are not matched by greater reforms, then we may see yet another shocks and turbulences.
For example, we are bound to see greater demands for the people’s voices to be heard, and for greater popular participation in governance. With the advent of technology and globalization, the people are expressing greater demands for a better standard of living, a greater share of the economic pie.
Muslims account for more than 20 percent of the world’s population. However, Muslim countries produce less than seven percent of the world’s output, and less than ten percent of the world’s merchandize export. Of the 50 least developed and most heavily indebted countries in the world, 22 are Muslim countries.
As countries become economically more integrated in a globalized world, we are seeing greater movement of commodities, services and people. Not only that, knowledge and ideas are also spreading across national barriers. Many people in the Muslim world are realizing what they have missed: freedom of expression, participation in governance, and essential social services.
Our governments and legislatures are therefore called upon to ensure the political empowerment and the economic and social welfare of our peoples. We must enhance the economic productivity of our people, for we shall not tolerate a situation where the great majority of Muslims suffer in poverty. Nor should we tolerate their exclusion from decision-making processes that affect their lives and futures.
Another major issue that we need to be vigilant of is the continued threat of the global financial and economic crisis.
Although affecting mostly Europe at the moment, in reality this crisis will also have severe impacts on all of us. Pundits are claiming that things will get worse for the global economy before they get better. At best, there will be a slow down in growth; at worst, there could be a double-dip recession.
Consider also the growth of the world population, which hit the seven billion mark last year. By 2045, there will be nine billion of us sharing this planet, demanding more food, energy, and other life-sustaining resources. It is likely that governments and peoples will be forced into fierce competition for these resources.
We must intensify cooperation and integration among the Muslim economies. This is a challenge that the PU-OIC can directly address through coordinated policies and legislations. We must push for reforms of the international financial and economic decision-making processes. We must also increase financial flows for economic development.
In some places, economic insecurity may lead to cultural insecurity and crisis of identity. And in such circumstances, we may see increasing signs of Islamophobia.
In today’s era of supposed enlightenment, it is unacceptable that a virus of ignorance and prejudice continues to spread far and wide. We must respond. But not by fighting fire with fire. And not by resorting to hatred and violence.
We must intensify dialogue with peoples of different faiths, culture, and civilizations. We must overcome ignorance. And we must embrace as many sides as possible, including through the role of the media. That is why Indonesia has not only promoted the organizing of Interfaith Dialogues, but also a series of Global Inter-Media Dialogue.
Through dialogue, we can learn to know one another better, thus developing tolerance, mutual understanding, and cooperation to solve common problems. We must project the teachings of Islam in its truest form; that Islam is a religion of peace. That Islam is rahmatan lil alamin.
But this message is effective only if we Muslims exercise the Islamic values — the values that made Islam the world’s most advanced civilization in the 13th century. This means working in solidarity with all humankind, since we are all children of the same Divine Providence.
This also means forging unity within the Islamic world. Our ability to do so would help efforts to develop a global response towards today’s challenges such as disarmament, poverty, and climate change.
We must earnestly promote a culture of peace, mutual tolerance and harmony. At the same time, we must build a culture of social justice, mutual respect and adherence to democratic values. The great diversity of humankind must be appreciated as an asset, and not as a potential source of conflict.
We in Indonesia have benefitted immensely from our diversity. While our population is close to 90% Muslim, we are proud to be home to all of the world’s great religions. We have blended local traditions with the cultural influences of Middle Eastern, Hindu, Chinese and Western civilizations. And we have more than 300 ethnic groups speaking about as many languages, each having their own traditions.
That is the spirit behind our national motto: Bhinneka Tunggal Ika: “though we are many, we are one”.
This remains evident in today’s Indonesia, as a democratic society. Ours is a democracy not only because we hold free and fair elections. Not only because we have a separation of powers as well as checks and balance. We are a democracy because our people can participate in the decision-making processes that affect their lives.
We are pleased that Indonesia has evolved to be a country where Islam, democracy and modernity can thrive together. Our democracy, while imbued with universal values, is essentially homegrown. The core values of Islam and those of our diverse cultures have been harnessed to support our democracy.
In a similar manner, Indonesia seeks to harness the core values of Islam and democracy to address some of the pressing issues affecting us all.
We cannot turn a blind eye to the plight of the Palestinian people, and their bid for UN membership and statehood. At the same time, let us continue to provide support for a future Palestinian state that is viable through, among others, capacity-building programs.
We cannot turn a blind eye either to the standoff taking place in the Strait of Hormuz. Indonesia, and I believe all the OIC member countries, are very much concern with the rising tensions caused by the prospect of military confrontation in that area. The sudden surge of oil prices and its volatility will threaten the very foundation of our economy and also the rest of the developing countries. Therefore, we must find a breakthrough to the stalemate and settle this problem peacefully through dialogue and negotiations.
We must enhance the role of women in our societies and protect them from all forms of violence and discrimination, in line with international law and Islamic values of social justice and equality. I therefore welcome the convening of the first conference of Muslim women parliamentarians as part of this Seventh Conference of the PU-OIC.
And we must enhance the promotion and protection of the rights of migrant workers. There are 150 million documented migrant workers all over the world, many of them Muslims. Some 20 million live and work in the Middle East. I therefore commend the Indonesian initiative in this Conference to propose a draft resolution on the protection of the rights of migrant workers and their families.
Your Honours, Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Finally, in a time when democratic values are increasingly resounding, your wisdom in realizing the aspirations of your people will be monumental.
As representatives of your peoples, you have a role not only in crafting national policies and legislations, but also in supporting the Muslim world’s efforts to address today’s global challenges. Future generations of Muslims have a great stake in the work that you do in your own legislatures. They also have an enormous stake in the practical results of the discussions that you carry out in this Conference.
Hence, it is my fervent hope that your deliberations will be fruitful and bring substantial benefits to the Ummah. And I wish you all a pleasant visit in this historic, diverse city of Palembang.
On that note and by invoking Bismillahirrahmanirrahim, I take great pleasure in declaring this Seventh Conference of the Parliamentary Union of the OIC officially open.
Wassalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.