Ordinary citizens must be empowered to show zero-tolerance for autocratic regimes and discriminative treatment, a Muslim professor from South Africa said.
Professor Ebrahim Moosa, an expert in Islamic theology, said it was the duty of ordinary citizens to bring about transformation.
He said some Muslim nations like Pakistan, Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia have discriminatory laws and "intolerable" practices that make non-Muslim minorities in effect, second class citizens.
He said he did not know how religious minorities were treated in Malaysia, but added that discrimination against non-Muslim minorities could only be dealt with if those in that very society promoted transformation or their own values and stance.
"Pluralism and liberal coexistence must strive to get the best out of people working with their local cultures.
"I am almost sure that if you look into the Malay, Chinese or Indian culture in a country like this, you will find resources for pluralism and liberal coexistence."
The Carnegie scholar was speaking at the forum "Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism" organised by think tank Penang Institute this afternoon.
Moosa also spoke about the insecurity experienced by Muslims, which caused some to reject pluralism and liberalism.
He said insecurity came from the lack of knowledge of oneself.
"Why are Muslims the only people who are insecure when they make up some 1.2 or 1.4 billion people in the world, have enormous wealth, control over oil and other kinds of resources? What is there to be insecure about?
"...You only become insecure when you are ignorant about yourself. You lack confidence in your tradition, in your history and your values.
"So, the remedy to insecurity is greater self-knowledge," said Moosa of Notre Dame University's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
He said having an elementary knowledge of religion and practising religion were not self-knowledge, but only knowing a set of rituals.
"It is beginning to understand the meaning of these rituals and to understand your relationship with God and the cosmos, and to begin to understand your relationship with the infinite number of possibilities that you begin to develop the understanding of security."
Moosa said insecurity was self-constructed and presented to the people by politicians repeatedly.
This was also happening in the United States, where Christian evangelists spread distrust against Muslims, or where the African-American and the Latin communities were seen as threats, he said.
"These kinds of scare tactics are things that happen all the time, and the communities, which are insecure, are not properly educated and told that they lack self-understanding.
"The sloganising and demonising of others are not doing themselves any good, but is destroying communities in the long term.
"The long term remedy is to establish deep confidence within the societies so they know who they are and what they are."
Moosa said Muslims could be very strong in their traditions, provided they understood them in the best way, as opposed to the versions of Islam by the Al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis).
He said the Quran taught Muslims that engaging people in conversation was something beautiful.
"I am appalled by Muslim preachers imported from South Africa and India to make anti-Christian preaching and to insult the Bible, Christians and so on.
"That is not what Islam taught and I am appalled by the number of Muslims who listen to them. You ought to have better sense not to subject yourself to that kind of ridicule."
He said even though the religions were different, there were shared values like love, which could be appreciated through learning, experiencing and knowing the traditions of other faiths.
Moosa also said liberalism was necessary in order to have peace and coexistence, as what is "good" is too diverse to be realised in one mode or form of life.
"There will never be a full consensus on what is the best way of life in a rational conversation, as all of us do not reason the same way.
"And because we reason differently, we develop the notion of toleration," he said, adding that what was considered good or "best" could change over time or be found in a various ways.
Moosa said it was not possible to sustain liberal coexistence without accountability and responsibility.
He spoke about "cellular globalisation", where people across borders today communicated through online social networks and across devices.
This kind of globalisation, he said, created the possibility for pluralism like never before and there was no way such pluralism could be managed.
"You might as well begin to recognise it and once you do that, you can talk about responsibility and accountability," he said, adding that such communication should not be prevented.