Your Excellency, Mr. Boyd McLeary, British High Commissioner to Malaysia
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am delighted to be here to officiate at the launch of The Art of Integration: Islam in Britain. It is a unique exhibition portraying the Muslim community in Britain, which is as varied as it is vibrant. I commend this collaborative effort between the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur and the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia. I also welcome Peter Sanders to Malaysia. Although this collection has been exhibited here previously, at the International Islamic University, Bangunan Lembaga Tabung Haji and the Terengganu State Library; this is Peter Sanders’ first attending exhibition in Malaysia. I hope that the future will bring many more opportunities for Malaysians to enjoy his photographic treasures.
- I have admiration for the work on display here because it goes far beyond being aesthetically pleasing to serve a higher purpose. At a time when mistrust and suspicion prevail especially between the Islamic world and the west, any effort at promoting respect and understanding is extremely praiseworthy. The deep cultural chasm that currently exists between Islam and the west is mostly a result of misunderstanding and misconceptions about one another, exacerbated by the strident voices of the few that resound above the moderate voices of the many.
- The terrible events of September 11th 2001 and July 7th 2005 have undeniably intensified fear and suspicion towards Muslims in much of the western world, Britain not exempted. Under such a climate, any resistance to multiculturalism, whether direct or implied, has been largely tantamount to attacks on Muslims and Islam. This is hardly unexpected seeing that Islam, is not only more topical at present, but more visible and more symbolically-charged. The result has been the uncalled-for hostility between peoples, with many suffering the effects of prejudice and discrimination.
- The best response is for voices of understanding, respect and acceptance to make themselves heard. These voices must be empowered and emboldened. Malaysia and Britain share the values of religious, cultural and racial acceptance. As we continue to espouse these values, we must ardently strive to dispel all false preconceptions. I am very much in support of any kind of commitment shown by any individual, organization or country towards such efforts. And likewise of efforts at integrating Muslim populations with the rest of society and the wider world. Not just in the interest of promoting cultural diversity, but in the spirit of human rights and justice; and with due recognition to the contribution made by Muslims around the world, as much as any other citizen, to economic, cultural and political life.
- Which brings me back to the work of Peter Sanders. It is exactly the moderate and constructive representation of Islam that I speak of – creating a visual dialogue between cultures. It not only gives the world a chance to acquaint itself with Britain’s vibrant and diverse Muslim community, but allows people to see the soul of individuals through their eyes, and to appreciate them as fellow human beings and precious lives. When the people of the world can look at one another thus, then perhaps the mistrust, hatred and suspicion can cease, and the massacres can end.
- I wish you all an enjoyable time at the exhibition. It is now my pleasure to launch The Art of Integration: Islam in Britain.