IAIS Malaysia’s Achievements in 2018

It has been an exhilarating journey since the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi, officially launched the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia in October 2008. Ten years on, IAIS Malaysia has become ‘one of the leading institutions on Islam with an excellent network with other Islamic institutions all over the world.’ 2018 will be remembered as IAIS Malaysia’s 10th anniversary, when it revived and revisited the spirit of ‘Civilisational Renewal’ that has been its driving force since inception, reassessing that concept’s relevance for both academic research and contemporary issues of concern to Malaysia, the Muslim world, and Islam’s engagement with other civilisations.

To mark a decade since its establishment, IAIS held its 10th Anniversary Seminar under the theme ‘The Rise of Smart Society and the Role of Islam in Navigating Civilisational Renewal’ (13-14 November). This two-day seminar was opened by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid bin Yusof, and followed by the launch of six IAIS Malaysia publications: a special issue of Islam and Civilisational Renewal on Democracy and the Rule of Law in the Muslim World: Twenty-first Century Developments (165 pp); the IAIS Malaysia Special Publications Magazine “The 10th Year & the Road Ahead” (59 pp); Islam and Diplomacy: The Quest for Human Security (xxi+277 pp); The Architects of Islamic Civilisation (xviii+353 pp); Democratic Transitions in the Muslim World (x+304 pp); and Islamic Law in Malaysia (xxv+372 pp). Joining the seminar were eminent Malaysian public figures Dr Chandra Muzaffar, Prof. Dato’ Wira Dr Ismail Ibrahim, Datuk Dr Mohd Daud Bakar, Tengku Datuk Dr Mohd Azzman Shariffadeen Tengku Ibrahim, and Prof. Dato’ Dr Aziuddin Ahmad.

Earlier, on 8 October, IAIS Malaysia also had the honour of hosting Minister Mujahid bin Yusof during the roundtable, ‘Philosophy and Procedure of Punishment in Islam in Attaining the Objective of Rahmatan Lil Alamin’ (Persidangan Meja Bulat: ‘Falsafah dan Tatacara Hukuman Jenayah Syariah dalam Mencapai Matlamat Rahmatan Lil Alamin’). This important discussion included presentations by Prof. Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Adjunct Prof. Dato’ Dr Mohd Naim Mokhtar (Syariah Court of Appellate, Malaysia), Assoc. Prof. Dr Zulfakar Ramlee (IIUM), Dr Arik Sanusi Yeop Johari (AG Chambers of Malaysia), and Mr. Abdul Kadir Jailani Ismail (Prisoner Department of Malaysia). It was attended by a host of Shari’ah Court Judges, State Muftis and state representatives, as well as academics and NGOs. Several resolutions were passed during the event, aimed at achieving policy reform in relation to shari’ah criminal offence procedures.

IAIS Malaysia started the year with a roundtable discussion on the Kashmir conflict, hosted on 6 January in collaboration with the International Movement for a Just World (JUST). This was followed on 9 January by a forum on ‘Understanding the Jerusalem Contention: A Multi-Dimensional Perspective,’ organised in collaboration with JUST and MyCARE and featuring presentations by Tan Sri Ahmad Al-Farra and Dato’ Dr Anwar H. Al-Agha, both former Ambassadors of the State of Palestine to Malaysia. In March, IAIS Malaysia organised ‘Interfaith Refugee Day’ in conjunction with World Interfaith Harmony Week. This event gathered together religious leaders of many faiths and saw the endorsement of the ‘Kuala Lumpur Interfaith Declaration on the Global Refugee Crisis,’ a document intended to propose strategies for dealing with refugees. In April, a seminar entitled ‘Seminar on the Thought of Hamka: Fiqh Ta’ayyush in Nation and Cultural Building’ (Seminar Pemikiran Hamka: Fiqh Ta’ayyush dalam Pembinaan Budaya & Bangsa’ was co-organised with PKPIM and ABIM, and featured Drs Afif Hamka (ninth son of the late Buya Hamka).

During a series of public lectures held throughout the year, IAIS Malaysia hosted a number of renowned speakers. In March, Palestinian Pastor Dr Alex Awad talked about ‘The Conflict Over Jerusalem: Personal Experiences and Perspective of a Palestinian Pastor,’ while on 21 April Prof. John L. Esposito (Georgetown University) made his second visit to IAIS Malaysia to speak about Islamophobia, in a lecture entitled ‘Islamophobia and the New Policy of US Towards the Muslim World.’ A week later, on 27 April, Prof. Jasser Auda (SOASCIS, Universiti Brunei Darussalam) lectured on ‘The Future of Maqasid al-Shariah Discourse,’ after which a memorandum of understanding was signed between IAIS Malaysia and Maqasid Institute Malaysia for future collaboration in the field of maqasid studies.

Through July and August, another five public lectures were held. On 19 July, Prof. Michel Chossudovsky (Centre for Research on Globalization, Canada), in an event jointly organised with JUST, spoke about the ‘Globalisation of War: US-NATO Threats Directed against Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.’ On 20 July, Mr. Asad Ali Jafri, a cultural producer from the United States, delivered a public talk on ‘Global Muslim Culture,’ co-organised with Crescent Collective and the United States Embassy in Malaysia. On 24 July, Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ninowy (Madina Institute) gave a lecture entitled ‘In the Footsteps of the Khalifa,’ while on 31 July, Dr Ugi Suharto (formerly Associate Professor at University College Bahrain) delivered a talk on ‘Semantics and Essence of Interest and Riba: Are They the Same or Different?’, the first of IAIS Malaysia’s Islamic Finance Talks. Finally, on 6 August, Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic, a Professor in International Law and Global Political Studies, shared his insights on ‘The Right’s Resurgence in Europe: Europe’s Shift to the Right.’

Over 2018, IAIS Malaysia also conducted a number of internal Research Fellow Seminars (RFS). In January, a RFS on the topic ‘Text and Context: Addressing Research Gaps in Muslim Minority Contexts’ was conducted with delegates from the Centre for Islamic Thought and Education, University of South Australia, led by their Director, Prof. Mohamad Abdalla. In February, we hosted an educational trip from the College of Islamic Economics Tazkia (Indonesia), which attended a RFS entitled ‘Crowdfunding as an Alternative Fundraising Tool, With Special Reference to the Malaysian Regulatory Response.’ In March, Dr Mohammad Enayatullah Asad Subhani spoke about the age of Aisha (RA) during her marriage, while in June His Excellency, Emir Hadzikadunic, the Bosnia and Herzegovina Ambassador to Malaysia, talked about the challenges facing Islam in his country. This was followed by the presentation to Prof. Kamali of several of his books translated into Bosnian.

On 26 July, Prof. Habib Ahmed (Durham University) delivered a RFS on ‘The Role of Islamic Finance in Infrastructure Development.’ On 25 October, in collaboration with the Board of Malay Custom and Heritage, Selangor (Perbadanan Adat Melayu dan Warisan Negeri Selangor, PADAT), IAIS Malaysia Visiting Fellow, Dr Daud Abdul Fattah Bachelor, and Ms. Intan Salina Idrus, curator of PADAT, discussed the topic ‘Is Jenderam Hilir, Sungai Langat, The Earliest Malay Settlement in Selangor?’ On 26 October, Mr. Husain Benyounis (Awqaf New Zealand) spoke about turning waste into awqaf revenues in New Zealand. Lastly, on 17 December, Prof. Brett Scharffs (Brigham Young University) spoke about human dignity and re-energising the human rights discourse.

In another highlight for IAIS Malaysia, over 2018 it became involved in a year-long research project with UNICEF Malaysia and IMAN Research. Aimed at developing a Malaysian, maqasidi-orientated model for child-sensitive social protection, this project was initiated on 17 July with a roundtable discussion entitled ‘Child-Sensitive Social Protection in Malaysia: Current State, Challenges and Way Forward.’ This event brought together many key stakeholders, including representatives from the Ministry of Women, Family and Community and the EXCO of Health, Welfare, Women and Family Empowerment in Selangor, as well as academics from various local universities. A second roundtable event, on the role of Islamic financial instruments in achieving child social protection, was held on 21 November. This event explored and scrutinised the feasibility of the proposed model for child social protection in Malaysia. This year-long research project will involve several other events in 2019 before a final proposal is made.

Between 29 April and 2 May, IAIS Malaysia organised Cruising with Islamic Finance Experts (CWIFE), a training session hosted by the SuperStar Libra cruise ship. Participants were brought from Port Klang to Phuket to Penang, and then back to Port Klang again, while undergoing training on shari’ah compliance, regulatory frameworks and Bank Negara Malaysia’s shari’ah standards. The latest changes and regulations in the field of Islamic Finance prompted another training session on 9-10 October, entitled ‘Shariah requirements for Islamic financial institutions after 2018,’ held at IAIS Malaysia.

IAIS Malaysia held a number of joint events with its esteemed partners in the final months of 2018. In September, a book dissection co-organised with ABIM and ILHAM Books was held for Pelaksanaan Undang-Undang Islam di Malaysia: Khayalan atau Realiti? (The Implementation of Islamic Law in Malaysia: Myth or Reality?), by Assoc. Prof. Dr Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil (IAIS). To coincide with Kashmir Black Day, on 27 October a seminar entitled ‘Plight of Muslims: Conflicts in the Region (South Asia and Beyond) – Case Study on Kashmir’ was co-organised with the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organization (MAPIM). On 1 November, a seminar entitled ‘Sufism and Spirituality as Antidote to Extremism and Violence in the Muslim World,’ was held in collaboration with ASIA West-East Research Centre and the Cultural Center of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Kuala Lumpur. Finally, on 17 November, a seminar on the thought of Saidina Ali bin Abi Talib (Pemikiran Saidina Ali bin Abu Talib) was co-organised with Institut Silsilah Assadah.

Overall, 2018 has seen IAIS thrive and become more influential in its quest for civilisational renewal. In summary, six seminars, seven public lectures, four roundtable discussions, three public forums, eight research fellow seminars, and two training sessions were held, making a total of 30 events. IAIS also published a total of 48 titles on a variety of topical subjects. This included 27 titles by IAIS Malaysia staff and research fellows in our regular NST column on various dates.

Prepared by: Muthanna bin Saari, Conference Unit.

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