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14 Februari 2007

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 (Bernama) -- The Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) celebrates its 15th anniversary on Feb 18, 2007.
In retrospective, it is evident that IKIM has filled the vacuum in portraying Islam the way it should be in line with the objectives of its founding.
IKIM chairman Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid has been working hard to ensure IKIM remains an organisation with an agenda to popularise Islamic thinking.
In an interview with Bernama, Ahmad Sarji talks about IKIM's achievements and its hopes for the future.
1. IKIM completes 15 years on Feb 18. As the founder, how do you feel Tan Sri?
I'm very proud of IKIM's achievements all this while. Much of its success is due to the guidance and the unwavering support from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the former prime minister who envisioned the establishment of the organisation.
Now, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is also lending a hand to IKIM. I'm very satisfied with IKIM's performance in line with its original objectives.
2. Tan Sri, can you briefly relate how IKIM came into being?
It is an unforgettable event. It was widely known when Tun Dr Mahathir was at the helm, he turned the post-Cabinet meetings into an important forum.
One Wednesday in February 1992, after the Cabinet meeting, as usual I was discussing with him, among other things, the establishment of a think tank to enhance Islamic understanding for Muslims and Non-Muslims.
He asked me to set up the institute. I told him that I was not an Islamic scholar. Yet, he insisted that I establish the institute as being the Chief Secretary he felt I had the clout to establish the institute.
He then asked me to immediately register IKIM as a company with limited guarantee.
I was told to identify a suitable site for the institution and apply for initial funding from the government.
He also requested me to recruit qualified people to spearhead IKIM's activities and prepare a solid work programme.
IKIM came into being on Feb 18, 1992 and I was appointed the founder chairman on March 15 that year. Since then, I have been in frequent discussion with Dr Mahathir on IKIM's programmes.
Three director-generals -- Datuk Dr Ismail Ibrahim, Dr Abdul Monir Yaacub and Dr Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas -- so far. They've cooperated well and have been dynamic in efforts to establish IKIM as a reputable think tank.
3. What is the biggest challenge faced by Tan Sri in chairing IKIM all this while?
The challenge is to open the minds of the public that Islam is a comprehensive religion that covers every sphere of life. It's not limited to prayers or fardu ain only. In fact, Islam includes trade, social aspects, inter-racial relations, politics and so on.
Hence, IKIM must identify themes for discourse that can open the minds of the public.
4. Tan Sri, what will you say on IKIM's programmes since the institute's inception 15 years ago?
As the themes discussed are topical and often current, we choose presenters from varied backgrounds and those who have done good research on the topics.
IKIM also organises a number of seminars, national and international conferences that lures scholars and experts from within and without.
Secondly, IKIM often provides its views to the government on, among others, the Islamic principles of management introduced to the Ministry of Science and Innovation.
IKIM successfully cooperated with SIRIM, and the management standards from the Islamic perspective has been published in the government gazette. This is a major milestone for IKIM in management.
Thirdly, is the Muslim Ummah Development Index (MUDI), a framework that outlines the indicators to evaluate and quantify the ummah's success using hundreds of indicators.
In setting up MUDI, IKIM has established networking with academic institutions like the International Islamic University and government bodies like the Statistics Department.
In the near future, IKIM plans to invite representatives of government bodies to study MUDI before it is adopted by the government.
Another success is the 'Value-Based Management' by IKIM that goes in hand with the corporate governance standard set by the government as a 'pre-listing requirement' for companies.
IKIM also established cooperation with MPH to publish more compelling books but it still handles the editing and marketing aspects.
Also, IKIM was given the opportunity to establish Radio on July 6, 2001 where through the 24-hour broadcast, IKIM spreads its message.
Among the programmes on air is the Economic World, Women Today, Syariah and Jurisprudence, Youth and Current Issues, and Science and Civilisation.
Last year, the Islamic 'Law Corner' was established to provide clarification on Islamic laws. The public can also forward questions through the Law Corner portal at
5. What is the public perception of IKIM?
I have yet to come across anyone critiquing IKIM, even if there were more of differences in opinion.
The perception of IKIM is also different from than of other Islamic institutions. I find that the public is more comfortable with IKIM as it adopts an open approach and is capable of providing answers to many of the present-day concerns.
The international perception is also positive with many parties keen to establish links with us. Many memoranda of understanding (MoU) have been signed including with non-Muslim organisations as they see IKIM as a think tank that can also deal with problems faced by non-Muslims.
6. What is the most significant problem of the ummah that needs to be tackled fast?
The efforts to uplift knowledge must be given priority. We may know of the basics of Islam and so on, but we have to gain as much knowledge as possible and create a deeper understanding.
We must understand the Islamic World view on the whole and its links with current issues, religion and the ummah in the highly challenging global environment.
With regard to this, IKIM has introduced the 'Mega Academic Project' as a show of appreciation for Muslim scholars like the late Prof Tan Sri Ahmad Ibrahim. I'm of the opinion that a knowledge-seeking culture must be inculcated through interaction, debates and dialogues as espoused by IKIM.
I hope more Muslims will stop over at IKIM to overcome the knowledge deficit. Other than that, IKIM also organises debates between students of public and private tertiary educational institutions, whereby through the debates IKIM hopes to inculcate the knowledge-seeking culture.
7. Tan Sri, in your speech while officiating at IKIM's 2007 Work Programme launch recently, you said this:
"It is my ambition to bring IKIM 'to another level' beyond what we have achieved in the last 14 years and in fact, I have always been thinking of how to take IKIM to another level."
Can Tan Sri dwell on this?
Up to now IKIM has functioned as a 'think tank', a repository of knowledge and as an institution that carries out missionary activities by technological means, for example, through radio.
I feel that IKIM should continue to fulfil its original objectives but at the same time it must set higher goals.
Therefore, to enhance understanding of Islam, perhaps it's also a wise move for IKIM to conduct academic courses in areas where we can contribute to scholarship.
This calls for excellent teaching staff, thinkers and better research. By changing its course, IKIM will have a bigger role to play.
Secondly, IKIM must carry out missionary activities using technology. Now IKIM has radio IKIM. If IKIM can seek more funds, it may consider venturing into television production where the programmes will be slotted in the existing television channels.
Or maybe one day, if it has the financial capacity and the government's approval, IKIM can set up its own television station and share the broadcasting equipment of other stations.
I'm very confident that through interesting and innovative programmes, understanding Islam can be made easier. This is what I mean in bringing IKIM to another level.

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