Seeming insecurity among Muslims leaves prominent American Islamic scholar Ebrahim Moosa scratching his head.
It is especially puzzling, he said, considering that Muslims make up 1.2 billion people in the world - many of whom are tremendously wealthy and have control over the global oil industry.
"What is there to be insecure about?" he asked, at a talk titled 'Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism', organised by Penang Institute in George Town.
"You only become insecure when you are ignorant about yourself and lack confidence in your traditions, history and your values," he told about 30 who attended the talk held at Wawasan Open University.
"So the remedy to insecurity is greater self-knowledge," he said.
Ebrahim said often people think that knowing the basics of religion is sufficient but self-knowledge is more than practising a set of rituals.
Instead it is the understanding of those rituals and one’s relationship with God which helps in building self-confidence, he said.
"I think this insecurity is self-constructed, drummed into people by politicians over and over again to win votes," he said.
Ebrahim said such a situation also exists among Christians in countries like United States, where he comes from.
People are warned that Muslims are coming, the blacks are taking over the country or the Latinos are becoming the new threat, he explained.
"Such fear tactics happen all the time but the malady is these communities who often feel insecure are not educated.
"They are not told they lack self-understanding, so sloganeering and demonising others are the quick fixes," he said.
"Those doing these are not doing the communities any good but destroying the communities in the long term," he added.
Plurality is not un-Islamic
Ebrahim said Islam should not be understood through the eyes of militants like the Islamic State who destroy all whom it perceives as its enemies.
Instead, Islam should be seen as religion which accommodates diversity as this version of Islam will make the believer “supremely confident”.
Ebrahim (right) said that even within the exclusivity of religion, there are possibilities of plurality.
He argued that all religions evolve through time and can find within themselves the notion of co-existence with other communities.
"For example, Christians and Muslims can disagree about who Jesus is, but these would not become insurmountable differences," he said.
"They must still show love and charity towards one another and continue talking, not fighting, over how they view Jesus - Muslims see him as a prophet and to Christians, he is the divine incarnation of God," he added.
"See what is beautiful instead of insulting and shooting others down."
Ebrahim said the number of Muslims who listen to those who preach anti-Christian teachings in countries like India and Africa is appalling and he is aware that such elements are banned in Malaysia.
However, he said, it would be better if these elements are not banned but are shunned by the society which chooses not to listen to them.
"Let them speak alone on stage," he said.
Ebrahim was responding to a question at the forum on the preaching of singular views in religion as the community felt threatened.
Penang Institute fellow Wong Chin Huat (right) said that in Malaysia, a singular view is often imposed as "Islam is seen being threatened".
He added that Muslims appeared to feel threatened by non-Muslims although the community comprises the majority in the country.
"How do you address that kind of fear and siege mentality?" Wong asked.
Accompanying Ebrahim at the two-hour session are Penang Institute executive director Zairil Khir Johari and Islamic Renaissance Front founder Ahmad Farouk Musa, who moderated the event.
Ebrahim was formerly a scholar in Religion and Islamic Studies at Duke University, and is currently a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic research university in Indiana, United States.