Malaysia to distribute translated Qurans abroad to counter Islamophobia

Iman Muttaqin Yusof
Kuala Lumpur
Share on WhatsApp
Share on WhatsApp
Malaysia to distribute translated Qurans abroad to counter Islamophobia Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim (left, front) shakes hands with a foreign delegate attending the International Forum on Islamophobia, in Putrajaya, Feb. 27, 2023.
S. Mahfuz/BenarNews

Updated at 5:20 a.m. ET on 2023-02-28

Malaysia has set aside more than U.S. $2 million in the 2023 budget to counter Islamophobia by translating and printing the Quran in several languages and distributing copies internationally.

Of the copies that will be printed under the plan, the first of its kind by the government, 20,000 will be sent to Sweden where a far-right politician recently burned the Muslims’ holy book on at least two occasions.

The 10 million ringgit ($2.2 million) plan is meant to create a better understanding of Islam, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim told reporters after an event titled “International Forum on Islamophobia,” which was held in the administrative capital, Putrajaya.

“We will print 20,000 in Swedish – and other languages too – for the purpose of better understanding,” he told reporters.

“Why it has become an issue is because those against Islam never read the holy book. …. So, we have to go back to the text or at least the translation to save and enlighten others about the deeper meaning of the religion.”

Anwar said the translations, publication and distribution will show wisdom and maturity in the face of unnecessary attacks on Islam.

Swedish-Danish politician Rasmus Paludan publicly burned the Quran in Sweden last month – on Jan. 21 during a protest, and on Jan. 27, in front of the Turkish embassy.

Anwar had condemned the acts, saying there was a need to educate non-Muslims.

“Yes we must protest, but it is also important we must give our understanding and do our utmost to ensure the message of the Quran is alive,” Anwar had said at a book launch, according to local media.

Joachim Bergström, Swedish ambassador to Malaysia, welcomed Anwar’s announcement.

“I am personally delighted that the Al-Quran, this globally important text, will be more accessible in my native country and in Europe,” Bergström told BenarNews.

“I even own several copies. I have spent many years of my life living and working in the Muslim world – including as Sweden’s special envoy to combat Islamophobia between 2016 and 2021 – and I am convinced that knowledge and dialogue are the way to promote understanding and peace.”

The Saudi Arabian government has undertaken a similar initiative to Malaysia’s planned one.

By 2000, the Middle Eastern country had distributed more than 138 million copies of the Quran across several countries, accord to the Heritage Foundation and other sources. More recently, media reported the country distributed 30,000 copies in Kenya in 2022.

27 MY-religion-2.jpg
Demonstrators gather in front of Swedish Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to protest the burning of the Quran in Sweden, Jan. 27, 2023. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

‘Waste of resources’

Not everyone in the Muslim-majority country is keen on the plan.

One Twitter user said the effort would help only those who receive the printing and distribution contracts.

“Don’t let the action of one moron in Sweden cost us 10 million [ringgit], that won’t be of any help to this country,” Layla, who uses one name, tweeted.

Zhu, who also uses one name, questioned the need to print the Quran.

“You can read online for free with translation in numerous languages. This money should have gone into health care,” Zhu tweeted.

A third Twitter user also questioned Anwar’s decision.

“What a waste of resources! That money could feed 2 million needy on the Rahmah menu (government cheap meal initiative),” Joyce Choong tweeted.

“To retaliate against one man’s unsound action, use 10 million ringgit! Will it reform him? Are the rich Muslim countries doing the same?”

Meanwhile, a hardline Malaysian group also expressed skepticism about Anwar’s move, saying harsher action should be taken against Sweden.

“Sending copies of the Quran translation is not a step that will significantly impact Sweden because there is no guarantee that it will reach and be read by the Swedes,” Muhammad Fauzi Asmuni, president of the Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia, told BenarNews.

He said along with protests, the government should impose a boycott on Swedish products and other measures.

“Calling on Muslims to respond to evil with good is commendable, but sometimes it does not solve problems, especially problems that require a strong stance from Muslims,” he said.

“Also, there is no guarantee it won’t be burned again.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version incorrectly reported the number of translated Qurans expected to published under the government plan.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.