March 8, 2021 House of Trust

Malaysia and Biden’s Presidency

*Image Source: Financial Times

20th January marks the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, denying Trump a second term for his presidency. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of America and the world and a new era of moral leadership expected from the world’s leading democracy. 

Now that Biden and the Democratic party has taken over the White House, we can expect a drastic change in direction led by President Joe Biden to restore the balance that Trump has disturbed.

The biggest change foreseeable would be a more democratic and liberal approach in shaping policy across all fronts. Biden is a democrat, and his policies ideally should be guided by the ideologies and ideals of democratic values and freedom. His Government is expected to put extra effort in pro-democracy and pro-freedom policies, as well embracing multilateralism in the widest sense.

America would also be looking to re-establish their presence in South East Asia in a significant way to balance China’s aggressive engagement in the region. Should this be happening, Malaysia has the potential to be the focal point of America’s renewed engagement, manifested either through trade, investment, or public diplomacy. As China continues to impose its influence in the South East Asia with territorial disputes and aggressive infrastructure investment and trade, Malaysia as a progressive democratic country is a valuable ally for America.

We should also be expecting an assertive yet pragmatic approach from Biden’s administration, similar to the Obama administration when dealing with domestic and foreign issues, especially human rights. Biden’s administration is already reversing Trump’s decision to pull out from the Paris agreement, rejoining WHO, and lifting the ban for travel into the USA for few Muslim countries. His intention to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Agreement with Iran and brokering a peaceful negotiation between Palestine and Israel are important steps in restoring trust among Muslim countries, diminished by the Islamophobic rhetoric’s and actions of the Trump administration.

The Muslims understand that America is not at war with Islam. The problem is not Islam or the Muslims, but certain people who uses Islam for their narrow and radical interest. But the American ignorance of Islam must also be addressed. It is time that America endorses that all religions share many “noble” ideas of justice, tolerance, fairness, and that peoples in different societies regardless of race, religion, and colour should be able to select their government freely. Malaysia could be the American bridge between the United States and the Muslim world. 

As a Muslim and a democrat, Biden’s presidency is a renewed hope for ‘a new beginning’ of constructive and robust engagement between Malaysia, the United States and the Muslim world. Should Malaysia realises its potential and work together with the United States to tackle issues within the South East Asia region as well as the Muslim nations, it would increase our regional and international presence as an ally of democracy, peace, and development.

*Abdul Razak Ahmad, PhD is the Founding Director of Bait Al Amanah (House of Trust) 

*Amirun Hamman Azram is an Analyst at Bait Al Amanah (House of Trust)

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