In the West we wonder why the Muslim world is not doing more to counter violent extremism done in the name of Islam. But, in fact, Islamic communities around the world are doing just that, though seldom reported in the Western media.
This past week I was one of 10 international speakers at one of those efforts to discuss challenges to local, regional and global peace at the Fourth World Conference on Islamic Thought and Civilization with the theme of "Global Peace," held in Ipoh, Malaysia, a three-hour drive north of Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Sponsored by the Office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the State Government of Perak and Sultan Azlan Shah University, the Conference themes were:
-- Social conflict and religious extremism
-- Islamic philosophy and the spiritual tradition
-- Humanitarian issues and universal peace
-- Power, politics and the media
-- Geo-strategies and global peace
-- Education and youth.
Harvard and Oxford educated, The Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, opened the conference with an analysis of the "2017 Global Peace Index Report" written by the Institute for Economics and Peace, an independent, non-profit think tank in Sydney, Australia, in which the top 10 most peaceful countries in 2017 are identified as eight countries in Europe, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, and Germany plus Iceland and New Zealand. The United States was ranked 17. The index ranks 163 states and territories on a variety of indicators including militarization, domestic and international conflict and societal safety and security.
The Sultan emphasized that over half of the least peaceful countries in the world are Muslim-majority countries, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen. The other five least peaceful countries are Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, North Korea, Central African Republic and Eritrea. The Sultan emphasized that the "growing inequality between the most and least peaceful countries in unequal distribution of wealth between the richest and the poorest in the world is mirrored in the unequal distribution of peace with the least peaceful countries severely damaged by war, political turmoil and by poverty.
The Sultan described peace as not just the absence of war, but also the absence of want and fear, religious freedom and respect for different cultures, and the acceptance, understanding and celebration of diversity. He emphasized that a "truly peaceful world is characterized by two important Islamic values -- trust and inclusivity and to learn to live together by showing mercy."
The Global Peace Index shows that the world is less peaceful than it was 10 years ago, with terrorism representing an ever increasing threat to international harmony, spreading fear and mistrust and inflicting needless suffering on communities and individuals. There has been a 247% increase in the number of deaths caused by terrorism over the past decade with no sign that the number will diminish.