International Conference on "Muhammad Iqbal and the Asian Renaissance" 3-5 June 1997

Dato Kamarudin Jaffar

In the last few years the Institut Kajian Dasar (Institute for Policy Research) has expanded its work to dedicate itself, among other things, to the cause of cultural revivalism, the construction of civil society and promotion of interaction among Southeast Asian societies and between the region and the world. In keeping pace with the momentous changes that are taking place in Asia in particular and the rest of the world in general IKD has embarked on a series of highly exciting projects. IKD today will become a catalyst, one of many, in the promotion of a universal community of mankind, a world which is pluralist, decent and democratic.

This new mission of IKD is not unique. Neither is new. Many other institutions may have similar objectives and we join these advocates of a world built on tolerance and understanding to contribute our abilities and our ideas to this important process.

In the fulfilment of its mission, the IKD has developed several projects in addition to our training and other programmes. Our Renaissance Projects spans political, economic, social, cultural and strategic concerns in civilisational dialogue, in which the rich traditions of Asia and the West = that is, our histories, cultural and religious heritage - should be first rediscovered and the recovered. This can only strengthen the economic foundations of our rapid development and progress of the last two decades. This international-conference-exhibition-cultural event on "Muhammad Iqbal and the Asian Renaissance" is a part of our efforts to deepen our understanding of the great contributions that Asia has made to world civilisation. This meeting is only the second in a series that we launched in 1995.

In October of that year IKD organised an event that included an international conference, an exhibition, a documentary and a drama on "Jose Rizal and the Asian Renaissance" here in Kuala Lumpur which was also attended by the President of the Republic of the Philippines. Jose Rizal was one of those Southeast Asian geniuses whose ideas, sacrifices and exemplary lifestyle are worthy of study. I am pleased to inform you that for our effort in doing this the House of Representatives of the Philippines Congress on July 1996 passed a unanimous resolution expressing its "heartfelt appreciation to the people of Malaysia led by Prime Minister Datuk Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, and Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and the Institute for Policy Research, Malaysia, for honouring our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal ….An event hosted by a friendly neighbour country has inspired the nationalistic sensitivities and uplifted the pride of the Filipino people".

This meeting on Allama Iqbal is the second in this series. Later this year we will hold a meeting to honour one of Asia’s great freedom fighters, Jamalludin Al-Afghani, on the centenary of his death. One year from now we will celebrate the contributions of another great Asian, Rabindranath Tagore, a contemporary of both Rizal and Iqbal. Before the end of this decade we hope to prepare similar meetings on Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the father of modern China, and on other Asian leaders and thinkers.

Our other great concern is the new Southeast Asia which, we believe, we should be united and progressive if we are to meet the new challenges of the future. Our project on "Southeast Asia Beyond 2000", actually crystallised in 1990 when we organised with our friends in the region a series on high-level conferences on ASEAN-Vietnam relations in Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Manila in a period of 3 years with the objective of integrating Vietnam in ASEAN. We also produced in 1993 a Study Group report called "Shared Destiny: Southeast Asia in the 21st Century".

As part of our continuing efforts to help realise the concept of One Southeast Asia IKD last year sponsored a Study Group on Cambodia and Laos, which after 4 months of work, produced a report in November called "Dictate of Partnership: Cambodia, Laos and ASEAN in One Southeast Asia" in which the Study Group made a series of recommendations to accelerate the integration of these 2 countries in ASEAN, including advocating the policy of "constructive intervention", urging the ASEAN states to take a proactive approach towards the reconstruction of new member states.

A month ago, in response to our Cambodia friends, IKD sponsored a mission of 10 concerned Southeast Asians to Cambodia to evaluate the situation there. Five days ago the report of the Study Mission to Cambodia titled "Cambodia in ASEAN: Partnership for Peace and National Reconciliation" was submitted to the ASEAN foreign minister and the secretary-general of the ASEAN secretariat ahead of their meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

IKD has also been taking the lead in holding the two meetings of the self-styled "Citizens of Southeast Asia Beyond the Year 2000: A Statement of Vision" in May 1994, and "Towards a Southeast Asian Community: A Human Agenda" in August 1996.

We are therefore greatly privilege to play host to this International meeting on "Muhammad Iqbal and the Asian Renaissance". His ideas and poetry are of universal value. As this conference will say more on Iqbal in the next 2 days I do not wish to comment except only to quote V.G. Kinen in his book "Poems of Iqbal : "Iqbal might be summed up as, in the broadest sense, a political poet, one concerned with men as social beings…It was because he grappled with the great questions of his world that he has a place in the history of twentieth-century Asia". And if I may add his ideas will continue to be relevant in the 21st century.

Let me end by thanking the following persons and organisations that made this meeting possible:

H.E. Anwar Ibrahim, Acting Prime Minister of Malaysia, whose inspiration it was to hold this meeting and for his keynote address this morning; The Rt Honourable Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for his support; The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for giving us all the support, particularly the loan of the 3 original manuscripts and personal belongings of Allama Iqbal to be displayed at this conference; The Iqbal Academy, the Iqbal Museum, and the Lok Virsa all in Lahore for their co-operation during the preparations of this meeting; The Malaysia High Commission in Islamabad and the Pakistan High Commission in Kuala Lumpur for facilitating our organisation; All speakers and chairpersons of the conference; Our special thanks to Pakistani painter, Aslam Kamal, for his exhibits, and Mr. Muhammad Suheyl Umar of the Iqbal Academy for his advice and assistance; The team of 2 singers and 4 musicians led by Salamat Ali and the Malaysian cast led by Norma Nordin, who put the performance together; The various corporate sponsors of this meeting; And the participants who have shown a special interest to attend this conference. Special thanks to our participants who have come from the countries in the region and particularly the high-powered delegation from Indonesia.

We hope that you will learn much from this meeting and trust you will enjoy your stay in Malaysia

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