PETALING JAYA: Malaysia should step back and recalibrate its relations with Saudi Arabia and the region, said a former ambassador.
Redzuan Kushairi said Malaysia should take a neutral stance and not get involved in the politics and conflicts in the region.
“Taking a completely neutral policy would allow Malaysia, as a medium power, a Muslim country and a member of the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries), to play a role that could contribute towards diplomatic efforts and search of peaceful resolutions of conflicts in the region,” he told FMT.
Redzuan was commenting on remarks made by political analyst Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, who had voiced concern over the strengthening of ties between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, saying it may have grave long-term effects on the way ordinary Malays perceived their religion.
Redzuan said for starters, Malaysia should withdraw from any involvement with Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
“If regional efforts are absent or failing, the government should urge the United Nations to push for the end of war and push for diplomatic and peace efforts in Yemen,” he said.
Redzuan also said that the government should view with serious concern any moves towards a formation of an “unholy alliance” involving the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Further to that, Redzuan said Malaysia should also step back from the setting up of the King Salman Centre for International Peace in the country.
“For reasons given by Prof Fauzi, Malaysia should monitor closely the support given to and activities of Wahhabi scholars from Saudi Arabia and financial assistance from Saudi Arabian sources to religious and other bodies and individuals in Malaysia.
“I believe Indonesia has been doing this under the new president and by both the Nahdatul Ulama and Mohamadiyyah Movement,” he said.
Redzuan added that Malaysia should also review its policy of sending students for religious studies in Saudi Arabia.
Fauzi, a professor at Universiti Sains Malaysia, had said he feared that Prime Minister Najib Razak’s increasing closeness with the Saudi regime might encourage the spread of Salafi ideas in Malaysia.
“Najib has been cozying up to Saudi Arabia despite increasing evidence that the Saudi-born Salafism is precisely the very rigid school of Islamic thought that is fuelling extremism all over the world,” Fauzi told FMT.
“Many people have already pointed out that the religious practices of most Malays have been going towards a more rigid direction and Malays do this sometimes not consciously but because this is the Islam that has been portrayed to them and supported by government-backed scholars.”
Last July, Najib announced that the government had decided to earmark 16ha of land in Putrajaya to build the King Salman Centre for International Peace because the Saudi monarch had chosen to site it in Malaysia.
One of the objectives of the institution is to fight the threat of terrorism.
Several quarters, including controversial Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) officer Zamihan Mat Zin, had criticised the idea of asking the Saudi government to help fight terrorism in Southeast Asia.
Zamihan said it was “unrealistic” and Islamic Renaissance Front director Ahmad Farouk Musa said it made “little sense”.
Recently, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies added to their “terror list” an international organisation of Muslim scholars whose leaders include PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang.
This came soon after Hadi criticised the Saudi regime for “forging intimate ties” with Israel and the United States.