NILAI: Education, the economy, religious institutions, racial unity and religious extremism were the top issues at the 2050 National Transformation Dialogue (TN50) between Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and youths here last night.
The dialogue, chaired by Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dr Asyraf Wajdi, began at 8.30pm, with the Deputy Prime Minister personally answering questions from dialogue participants at Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM).
The issues of religious extremism and radicalism was raised by singer and missionary Hafiz Hamidun, who expressed fears that the misuse of technological advances available today could worsen the situation.
Meanwhile, another participant Rahmat Ikhsan Mohd Sofyan said the Gathering 355 held in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday could result in the creation of two groups, namely, religious extremists and liberals.
Commenting on the matter, Zahid said non-verbal communication dominated social media (87%) with only a small portion of people using conventional media.
“Recruitment by extremists is by non-verbal communication. Currently, of the 157 Malaysians who joined extremists in Iraq and Syria, 37 have been killed. They looked for a shortcut to ‘heaven’.
“Most studies find those who joined the groups had no religious education foundation,” he said.
Commenting further, Zahid, who is also Home Minister, said his ministry had rehabilitated 87.5% of the individuals who were directly involved in extremist groups through the use of deradicalisation programmes which were also shared with other countries.
On the commitment of the government to empower Islam in the country by 2050, the Deputy Prime Minister said numerous efforts had been made by the government such as maqasid syahriah (objective of Islamic laws), moderation and Islamic banking.
“The government is committed to implementing a form of holistic, not rhetoric Islam,” he said.
This, he said, was proven via the financing of 42,681 Quran and personal obligation classes (Kafa) which was financed by the government via the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim), 72 secondary religious schools and 332 state religious schools.
“This proves the federal government’s commitment to help the development and interpretation to boost Islam as a universal religion,” he said while expressing hope the 102,000 Quran memorisers would represent the nation in the professional sector in 2050 compared to 1,513 people currently.
To a question from novelist Ain Maisarah, who hoped youths would not be easily influenced by western culture, Zahid said he was confident, despite having different modules, that local universities would stay committed in upholding the issues of civilisation.
“It cannot be stopped. We must give breath and soul to ensure the continuation of the realisation of civilisation. In fact, we want to make professionals (into) ulama and the ulama, professionals,” he said.
Also present were Higher Education Minister Idris Jusoh, Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Mohamad Hasan, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom and Usim Vice-Chancellor, Prof Dr Musa Ahmad.