Model Nation

Downtown Kuala Lumpur simultaneously reassures and unnerves me. I take comfort in the many outward manifestations of progress, tolerance and pluralism: a modern economy, an educated and urbane work force, and the ethnically and religiously diverse populations peacefully coexisting. On the trendy Bintang Walk shopping street, Arab tourists relax with their families—men choose shorts over dishdashas, and their wives abandon full-faced nikab for loose head scarves. Such is the moderating effect of Malaysia.

Malaysia is an aberration in the Muslim world. In October, when Malaysia assumes the chair of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Muslim nations will...

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