New Straits Times

Sep 17, 2017


PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has taken Malaysia-US relations to new heights by enhancing 60 years of friendship between the two countries with his visit to Washington from Sept 11 to 13. Some observers call President Donald Trump’s invitation to the Malaysian delegation led by the prime minister a coup. Najib is only the second leader from ASEAN to be invited by Trump just eight months into his presidency.

Writing in The Hill newspaper and website, a publication read by opinion leaders in America, on the day of his visit to the US on Sept 11, Najib said if America wished to find a partner for peace, prosperity and security in the coming decades of the 21st century, it would find a staunch and steadfast friend in Malaysia. Trump’s Merdeka Day greetings of “so proud to be your friend since the beginning!” to Najib seems to show great prescience on the part of the US president of Malaysia’s offer of partnership.

Yes, Malaysia-US ties are as old as Malaysia. And, now, it is at a new high with this month’s visit to Washington by the country’s high-powered delegation led by Najib. The offer of partnership by Malaysia and the acceptance of it by US is a welcome move in this very much radicalized world in many parts of the globe, including Southeast Asia. It is comforting to note Malaysia’s assurance to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with US to fight terrorism, no matter what the motivation is for the menace. Extremism begets extremism. Nations, both small and big, must work together to move from curing this disease to preventing it. One preventive solution is a global effort to help the displaced, the persecuted and the hapless.

It is, therefore, an exemplary sign of leadership shown by Malaysia to put the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar on the agenda of the discussions between the two countries’ leaders. Malaysia and US can do many great things together in putting a stop to terrorism as they have done in the past in Syria and Afghanistan, and preventing the refugee problem from happening at its source is one such magnanimous solution for humanity.

Naib’s visit to Washington during the early years of the presidency of Trump is important for another critical reason. There is so much of misunderstanding about Islam that it breeds Islamophobia, especially in Western minds. As a leader of a Muslim-majority country, Najib sees it as his duty to the faith to correct the misconstrued perception of Islam. Addressing Trump and Americans in The Hill article, Najib put it so well: “Your enemy — those who blaspheme against the religion of a majority of Malaysians claiming their terrorism is Islamic—- is our enemy, too.”

The world of 195 nations must be made safe so that people of every nation can dedicate their lives to the pursuit of happiness. Najib has shown that one small nation can make a difference, with some help from the US. And, that is the power of one.