Malaysia Dateline

KL Summit 2019: A way forward

KL Summit, an international platform for Muslim leaders from around the world to discuss and exchange ideas. First it was started in 2014, 2019 is the 5th edition the summit where the main focus remains on the issues revolving Muslim community around the globe.

Slammed by various quarters, the summit is seen as an attempt to replace the OIC. KL Summit is a Non-Governmental Organization initiative, which is supported by Malaysian Government.

As quoted by Prime Minister Office media statement, ‘The Summit is not a platform to discuss about religion or religious affairs. But specifically to address the state of affairs of the Muslim Ummah.’

In addition, KL Summit only involves some Muslim countries; not as many as it would be in OIC. The summit provides platform for the countries to share ideas on how to improvise nation building, economic prosperity and global Muslim issues.

Even though attended by premiers from Turkey, Iran and Qatar, these Muslim countries are among major influencers in the Muslim world. Each of them has specialties and strengths which can be shared via ideas and aspirations for a country like Malaysia.

It is always great idea to gather countries to discuss on common issues particularly with the rapid globalization and technological advancement happening throughout the globe.

Some perceive KL summit is a failure where it is only attended by the four countries. In fact, the statement is misleading whereas there are close to 450 participants from 56 countries endeavoring to discuss issues revolving the Muslim world.

In addition, this year edition brings the inaugural Youth KL Summit which aims to discuss the role of youth in addressing issues pertaining to Muslims youth comprising of education, economy, politics, entrepreneurship, IR 4.0 and good governance. Resolutions of the youth summit were presented in KL Summit.

This summit acts as an amplifier to the world where leaders come and raise their concerns on issues, and together find a workable solution towards a greater good for the Muslim community.

Tun Mahathir in his keynote raises his concerns over the inability of Muslim countries to protect the Ummah and how a small portion of Muslims created a perception to others that Islam promote act of violence. Thus, resulting in the majority Muslims to struggle on the issue of rising Islamophobia. All these issues are common issues and boggling the entire Muslims community.

Echoing Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa comment on the KL Summit, Malaysia can share the experience in promoting the narrative of Rahmatan lil Alamin (compassionate Islam) and the success of making it as a national policy with the aim to tell the world that Islam is a progressive and productive religion that wants peace.

In addition, KL Summit called upon rich Muslim countries to trade and invest in poor Muslims nations, to elevate the capacity of Muslims. Taking relationship between Turkey and Africa as an example, since 2013, a total bilateral trade volume has grown to $17.5 billion and total Turkey’s investment in Africa is estimated at around $7 billion. With this, member countries can together rise and improve each other’s economy without heavy reliance to Western super-powers.

themselves. Although the idea is yet to be studied for its viability, this step is a good start towards improving each other’s economy.

Muslim countries to form an economic block by having a single trade-currency like the European Union is very challenging due to geographical locations. Plus, this may lead to “Spaghetti Bowl Effects” where too many crisscrossing FTAs in global trade activities.

What Muslim world could do is to promote common Islamic products and services, Halal Foods global market that is estimated to worth $3 trillion and Islamic Finance now estimated to have crossed $2 trillion in assets. For instance, Muslim countries may charge lower tariff rate on Halal Foods as one of the ways to encourage the consumption of the products.

At the global front, it is important for Malaysia to be seen as the neutral power in the global arena, to act as a Mediator in balancing the Trade War between US and China and also to harmonize Economic War between Islamic countries like Saudi, Iran and Qatar.

Since the summit an annual event, there should be a serious effort in gaining support from other Islamic countries and also other non-Islamic countries who are willing to share their best practices with others and most importantly share the same goal of prosperity, peace and harmony. There should not be diplomatic issues with other countries. Malaysia shall remain as a friendly country to all, both the East and the West.

“Every people has a direction towards which they turn, so strive together as if in a race, towards all that is good”
(Al-Baqarah: 148)

The spirit of Fastabiqul Khairat – strive, then, to excel each other in good deeds should be a tagline for a more inclusive KL Summit in the future.

Important milestone of this summit, there are 18 successful exchanges of instruments in various fields. It is unfair to say the summit is a waste of tax-payer’s money as gathering world leaders are prominent for medium and long term investments.

Overall, 2019 KL Summit was a successful event despite criticism on the attendance of only four leaders of Muslim countries. Bringing four premiers on one stage to foster discussion on critical issues regarding Muslim world are important to reflect current weaknesses and challenges as well as to jumpstart the engines of Muslim countries
Most importantly, Muslim countries should improve each economic performance and capability to be a global example.

“And so it is that We have made you the best nation for you are witnesses against mankind”
(Al-Baqarah: 143)

In the long term, Muslim countries should be the leading economies in term of social welfare, sustainable environment, quality of life, harmonious society and stable economic growth. This should be the way forward for Muslim countries.


* Wan Anwar Wan Ibrahim is a Founder and Chairman Centre for Malaysian Political and Economic Transcendence (COMPETENT)