Azizan Baharuddin is the Director of the Centre for Civilisation Dialogue (University of Malaya). Her lecture could have been titled "Peace - The need to learn, unlearn, and relearn." An implied theme was "I am a Muslim woman who writes about Islam addressing a Buddhist group." In Malaysia religion is never far from the surface, and everyone (including us) has an opinion as to how it affects personal relations and politics. For example, to avoid charges of proselytizing church or temple program announcements may state "For non-Muslims only." Dr. Aziran criticized the widespread fear of interacting with others; she gave the example of chiding colleagues who were reluctant to speak with "saffron-robed" monks.
Throughout the evening Dr. Aziran presented herself as a woman of faith, who respects and interacts with people from other faiths and non-believers. She noted her own freedom to come and go and meet with whomever she pleases. Her message about peace? To bring about and sustain peace people across religions and cultures should share beliefs. Included in this sharing is acknowledging the contributions and insights of science. As for the learning, unlearning and relearning? The audience members may have left with a more nuanced understanding of how Muslim women may view their faith and their interactions with non-Muslims.
Years ago after hearing Bell Hooks speak a comment said that she was a woman that you would like to sit down and have coffee with. The same could be said about Dr. Azizan - a warm woman who makes her considerable thinking and insights accessible.
Before going to the lecture we stopped to see the exhibit of Malaysian women artists. Here are some of our favorites.
|Lee Moh See: Harbor|
|Ho Mi Mi: Blooming Scene I|
|Tan Pek Cheng: Peace & Harmony|
|Jasmine Kok Lee Fong: Lily Pond|