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Greetings from the Global Ethic
A keynote address from the
Minister of Education of Malaysia

A keynote address from the Minister of Education of Malaysia



TIME : 10.30 A.M.


A very good morning to all of you

Tuan Syed Mohamad Albukhary,
Director of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia

Mr. Peter Schier,
Representative of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation to Malaysia

Mr. Koh Sia Feai,
Secretary-General of Soka Gakkai Malaysia

Tan Sri, Tan Sri, Puan Sri, Puan Sri, Dato', Dato', Datin, Datin, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

Both as Minister of Education and in my personal capacity I feel very honoured and proud to have been invited to participate in today's Prize-Giving Ceremony and Launching of the Exhibition of the winning artworks of 'Malaysia's 1st Arabic and Chinese Calligraphy Competition on the Golden Rule'. When I received your invitation I most readily accepted it because I believe that you all have accomplished a great project full of meaning, especially in the field of civic education where the teaching of common ethical standards is crucial for the harmonious functioning of our society.

In fact, this is the first time anywhere in the world that such a project has been realized:
" The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia is one of the most prestigious Islamic institutions in the country.
" Soka Gakkai Malaysia is a well-known Buddhist organization with a great number of followers of Chinese origin.
" The Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation is a German organization working worldwide which is largely inspired by Christian values.

These three institutions of different cultural, religious, ethnical national backgrounds have joined forces to propagate, through calligraphy and art, a fundamental ethical standard shared by all faiths and civilizations: "Treat Others As You Would Like To Be Treated". This has been possible to achieve for the first time anywhere in the world in Malaysia. It makes me very happy and proud because Malaysia is home to a unique form of the practice of unity in diversity.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
Globalization is bringing vast changes to the make-up and functioning of every society on earth. I remember discussing this matter with Mr. Peter Schier when I last met him a few weeks ago at the launching of the Tun Hussein Onn Memorial Awards. As both travel and communications become cheaper and quicker, entire populations of people are on the move. Societies are becoming more heterogenous. Every society will have to deal with the problem of many cultures, many faiths, many races. If this is what the future is going to look like, we are already there. Malaysia, with a young, multiracial population full of energy and hope, rooted in their own cultures, yet open to one another and to the world, is in many ways the face of a future to which many countries aspire. Both literally and figuratively, Malaysians have sat down side by side; on the same benches as it were, in the school of multicultural nationhood. Instead of being torn apart by this proximity we have learnt to find and build a common ground broad enough to sustain peace, harmony and friendship. Having learnt many lessons in multi-cultural and multi-religious peace we realize we have something of great value not just to ourselves but to other nations.

The lessons have not come easily. Works of art hide the sweat and tears which went into their making. They give the impression of ease and naturalness. Just ask the artists here today. Great calligraphy gives us the impression of unmatched ease. The ink flows from the stylus or the brush as if flowing freely and according to the way of nature. Rightly so, and this is how we should enjoy it. But the enjoyment of art should not be confused with the effort of its making. Malaysian society, is like a work of art. If today we can enjoy its beauty the way we enjoy the works we see here today, we should not forget the effort, thought and design that went into giving us this appearance of ease.

For this we can thank the visionaries in our history, the makers of unity; those who first saw the image in the canvas and were willing to devote their lives to leadership and peacemaking. But we must also remember that in the end peace is not the accomplishment of one person or one group but the cumulative work of all our people, in their endlessly creative, endlessly interesting ways of living together in peace and harmony. I pray that our young people are inspired by the beauty they see around them to also take up the challenge of working for unity and peace. Here too, just as with calligraphy, each generation, after studying the successful patterns of the past, must then go on to find and create its own distinctive hand, it's own brushstroke.

Multi-cultural programmes such as the one we are launching today could do a lot to remind people just how much common ground they share even though they participate in different religious and ethical communities. Instead of simply lecturing people about the Golden Rule the organizers have chosen, instead, to ask people to make something beautiful out of it. True beauty, like true goodness, reaches over cultural boundaries. We respond to the beauty of Arabic or Chinese calligraphy even if we do not share the traditions out of which they arose. Similarly, we can recognize moral principles as they are articulated by other religions and other traditions.

The reason why we can recognize beauty and truth even in traditions very different from our own is that we share a common humanity. It is this common humanity that all your fine efforts today celebrate.

Therefore, on behalf of the Malaysian government and in my own capacity I would like to thank the organizers, all of the participants and all who have gathered here in honour of the winners of 'Malaysia's 1st Arabic and Chinese Calligraphy Competition on the Golden Rule' to have contributed to the success of this very meaningful and unique project.

The aim of this competition and exhibition is to encourage the sense of justice, solidarity and fellowship between people of all backgrounds and faiths. This idea of the common values of humankind can be seen in the umbrella symbol of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation. On this umbrella we see the concept of the Golden Rule in its various wordings as embraced by all the main religions of the world. You can find it in the scriptures of the major faiths - in different words but with the same Message: "Treat Others As You Would Like To Be Treated." You will see this message in the scriptures of Islam, Confucianism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism as well as the Bahai Faith. It is a moral principle that all human beings, wherever they are, whoever they are, can understand, or can be taught to understand. It is simple enough to teach a child, but its implications are vast.

In this competition, the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation and Soka Gakkai Malaysia chose to focus on the Golden Rule as it is conveyed in Islam and Confucianism. As Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. has said according to Hadith 13 of the 40 Hadith of Imam Nawawi: "No one of you (really) believes in (Allah and in His religion) until he loves for his brother what he loves for his own self." And as Confucius is recorded to have said in the Analects: "What you do not wish done to yourself, do not do to others." These precepts from two different cultures, Islam and Confucianism, are expressions of the same rule: "Treat Others As You Would Like To Be Treated."

In its endeavour to spread word of the competition, the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia made an especially valiant effort in reaching younger communities and encouraging them to participate. The museum's Curatorial and Education departments joined forces to hold, with assistance from Soka Gakkai Malaysia, a children's workshop that explored the idea of the Golden Rule and its practical implications in the day-to-day aspects of life. Children from different religious and ethnical communities participated together in activities such as the "trust walk", "good deeds accounts" and the "wave". They learnt to respect one another and to work together.

In today's multicultural and connected world, and especially in these tumultuous times, we must continue to work actively towards appreciating and understanding one another. There is no replacement for such work, which requires patience, commitment and yes, faith. Projects like today's encourage us all to put our shoulder to the wheel of peace.

As the Minister of Education I am sure the relevant departments will include the teaching of the Golden Rule in the newly established subject of civic education for Muslim and Non-Muslim students so that they become more aware of the common values which are shared by their different faiths and cultures.

Ladies and gentlemen:

I highly commend all those of you who have reflected patiently on the meaning of the Golden Rule. You have retold in beautiful forms what the message means to you. We are inspired to follow you.

Congratulations to you all, participants and organizers, and many thanks on behalf of the Malaysian government and myself for your well-spent efforts, so meaningful for our society and human society at large!

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
18 December 2004

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