By Hanan Alnufaie
Riyadh — Malaysia, which is the guest of honor at this year’s Riyadh International Book Fair, will take the opportunity to focus on the similarities with Saudi Arabia, the aspirations of the two countries for the future, and their progress as an Ummah, said the Southeast Asian country’s Ambassador to the Kingdom Zainol Rahim Zainuddin.
In an interview with Saudi Gazette, Zainuddin thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman for the opportunity to showcase Malaysian books and culture at the Riyadh International Book Fair which opened on Wednesday and runs till March 18.
“We believe that we live in a world where it becomes one of our duties to reinforce tolerance. And the best way to reinforce that is to understand one another. To understand one another, we must understand each other’s culture,” he said.
He highlighted the long-drawn and deep-rooted relations between Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.
“The crucial visit of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to Malaysia recently showed how strong the relations are between the two brotherly countries,” the ambassador said, adding that the diplomatic ties were established nearly 60 years ago immediately after the independence of Malaysia in 1957.
“Historically too our relations were sealed in the 14th century when traders from the Arab world came to our part of the world. From this point relations flourished; particularly when they brought Islam with them as a religion. The economic ties too have strengthened between the two regions.
“Now our relations have grown by leaps and bounds. Saudi Arabia is one of Malaysia’s biggest trade partners in the Middle East. We also see more than 100,000 Saudi tourists in Malaysia.”
When asked about the cultural impact of participating in events like the book fair, Zainuddin said, “Our participation as the guest of honor for this year is something to feel very honored about. It brings to Saudi Arabia and the Arab world in general the diverse cultures that we practice in Malaysia.
“You will notice when you visit our pavilion, the similarities we have with the Arab world. Religion is surely the main part and it was the foundation. And because of that, our script in the beginning was Arabic then over a period of time we adopted Romanized letters.
“However, we still teach Arabic language in our schools. There are some Malay words the pronunciation of which is not reflected in the Arabic script. So, we created one or two Arabic letters to suit our pronunciation. In Arabic there is the “F” sound we changed it into “P” to suit our pronunciation.
“We have brought with us more than 500 books from various genres and categories.
“One of the presenters in the seminars will be a chief minister of one of the states of Malaysia. There will be authors, writers, artists, painters, and presenters. One of them is just 14 years old who will be painting on the walls of the pavilion. There will be cultural performers, dancers and musicians.”
“These performers are young. They are 16 or 17 years of age.
“We know that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 focuses on developing human resources, especially the youth. We also have the same thing in Malaysia.
So we feel that we share the same vision in terms of where we are heading to develop our countries and building strong foundation and base for the youth because they are the future generation.
When asked about future plans after the exhibition to further enhance bilateral ties, the ambassador said: “We plan to expand our culture even after the book fair finishes. Malay language is one aspect especially that we do have lots of common words with Arabic language. We also plan to have restaurants that serve Malay cuisines, because food is part of culture as well. We already have one in Jeddah but we plan to have more.”