The Integration and Harmonisation of Secular and Islamic Ethical Principles in Formulating Acceptable Ethical Guidelines for Modern Biotechnology in Malaysia

Abstract

The Malaysian government recognises the potential contribution of biotechnology to the national economy. However, ongoing controversy persists regarding its ethical status and no specific ethical guidelines have been published relating to its use. In developing such guidelines, it is important to identify the underlying principles that are acceptable to Malaysian society. This paper discusses the process of determining relevant secular and Islamic ethical principles and establishing their similarities before harmonising them. To achieve this, a series of focus group discussions were conducted with 23 knowledge experts representing various stakeholders in the biotechnology community. Notably, several principles between the secular and Islamic perspectives are indirectly or directly similar. All the experts agreed with the predominant six ethical principles of secular and Islamic philosophy and their importance and relevance in modern biotechnology. These are beneficence and non-maleficence as the main or overarching principles, the preservation of religious and moral values, the preservation of the intellect and the mind, the protection of human safety, the protection of future generations, and protection of the environment and biological diversity. Several adjustments were made to the terminologies and definitions of these six principles to formulate acceptable guiding principles for the ethics of modern biotechnology in Malaysia. These can then be adopted as core values to underpin future national guidelines on modern biotechnology ethics. These principles will be particularly important in guiding the policy makers, enforcers, industries and researchers to streamline their activities. In so doing, modern biotechnology and its products can be properly managed without jeopardising the interests of the Muslim community as well as the general public. Importantly, they are expansive and inclusive enough to embrace the religious sensitivity of diverse quarters of Malaysia.

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Acknowledgement

The authors would like to acknowledge Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia for supporting this study under the project DCP-2017-005/4 and our gratitude to all participants in this study for their time and efforts to participate in the focus group discussions.

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Hasim, N.A., Amin, L., Mahadi, Z. et al. The Integration and Harmonisation of Secular and Islamic Ethical Principles in Formulating Acceptable Ethical Guidelines for Modern Biotechnology in Malaysia. Sci Eng Ethics 26, 1797–1825 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-020-00214-4

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Keywords

  • Malaysia
  • Modern biotechnology
  • Ethical principles
  • Secular ethics
  • Islamic ethics