PUTRAJAYA, Oct 16 (Bernama) -- Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad set the tone for deliberations at the biggest gathering of Islamic nations which opened here on Thursday with a call to them to use their strength and close ranks in dealing with issues confronting Muslims worldwide.
The prime minister said that with 1.3 billion people, the Muslim countries were actually strong but they had never really tried to unite and cooperate.
"We are all Muslims. We are all oppressed. We are all being humiliated," he said in his opening address at the 10th Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit at the brand-new Putrajaya Convention Centre here.
The summit, the first to be held in the Asia Pacific region, has drawn the largest number of Muslim leaders, 33, since the inception of the 57-member OIC in 1969. The other members have sent their respective representatives.
Held triennially, it is also the first gathering of Muslim leaders since the Sept 11 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Apart from Muslim leaders from West Asia, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Philippine President Gloria Arroyo were among those present at the opening ceremony held in this new Malaysian federal administrative capital.
Dr Mahathir said it would be futile for Muslim countries to condemn their detractors and oppressors as this would not change their attitude.
"If we are to recover our dignity and that of Islam, our religion, it is we who must decide, it is we who must act," he told the gathering of kings, presidents and prime ministers.
Muslim countries had great wealth and the biggest oil reserves in the world, he said, adding that they controlled 57 out of the 180 countries in the world.
"Our votes can make or break international organisations. Yet we seem more helpless than the small number of Jahilliah converts who accepted the Prophet as their leader.
"We are actually very strong, 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today, the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them."
Dr Mahathir said that it might not be possible to unite all the 1.3 billion Muslim population and to get all the Muslim governments to act in concert.
"But even if we can get a third of the ummah and a third of the Muslim states to act together, we can already do something."
The prime minister said the whole Muslim ummah was today treated with contempt and dishonour.
"Our religion is denigrated. Our holy places desecrated. Our countries are occupied, our people starved and killed.
"None of our countries is truly independent. We are under pressure to conform to our oppressors' wishes about how we should behave, how we should govern our lands, how we should think even.
"Today, if they want to raid our country, kill our people, destroy our villages and towns, there is nothing substantial that we can do.
"Is it Islam which has caused all these? Or is it that we have failed to do our duty according to our religion?
"Our only reaction is to become more and more angry. Angry people cannot think properly.
"And so we find some of our people reacting irrationally. They launch their own attacks, killing just about anybody, including fellow Muslims, to vent their anger and frustration.
"Their governments can do nothing to stop them. The enemy retaliates and puts more pressure on the governments.
"And the governments have no choice but to give in, to accept the directions of the enemy, literally to give up their independence of action.
"With this, their people and the ummah become angrier and turn against their own governments.
"Every attempt at a peaceful solution is sabotaged by more indiscriminate attacks calculated to anger the enemy and prevent any peaceful settlement.
"But the attacks solve nothing. The Muslims simply get more oppressed," he said.
Dr Mahathir asked whether it was true that the Muslims could do nothing for themselves or to exert power to save themselves from the humiliation and oppression inflicted upon them by a much smaller enemy.
"Can they only lash back blindly in anger? Is there no other way than to ask our young people to blow themselves up and kill people and invite the massacre of more of our own people?" he said.
The Muslim countries must build up their strength in every field, not just in armed might, he said.
"Our countries must be stable and well-administered, must be economically and financially strong, industrially competent and technologically advanced.
"This will take time, but it can be done and it will be time well spent. We are enjoined by our religion to be patient."
He said the defence of the ummah need not start only after they had put their houses in order.
"Even today, we have sufficient assets to deploy against our detractors. It remains for us to identify them and to work out how to make use of them to stop the carnage caused by the enemy.
"This is entirely possible if we stop to think, to plan, to strategise and to take the first few critical steps. Even these few steps can yield positive results," he said.
He said the Muslim countries were enjoined by their religion to prepare for the defence of the ummah.
"Unfortunately we stress not defence but the weapons of the time of the Prophet. Those weapons and horses cannot help to defend us any more.
"We need guns and rockets, bombs and warplanes, tanks and warships for our defence.
"But because we discouraged the learning of science and mathematics, etc, as giving no merit for the akhirat, today we have no capacity to produce our own weapons for our defence.
"We have to buy our weapons from our detractors and enemies," he said.
The theme of the summit is "Knowledge and Morality for the Progress of the Ummah".
Dr Mahathir said that apart from the partial unity that they needed, the Muslim nations must take stock of their assets.
"We also know that not all non-Muslims are against us. Some are well-disposed towards us.
"Some even see our enemies as their enemies. Even among the Jews there are many who do not approve of what the Israelis are doing," he said.
"We must not antagonise everyone. We must win their hearts and minds.
"We must win them to our side not by begging for help from them but by the honourable way that we struggle to help ourselves.
"We must not strengthen the enemy by pushing everyone into their camps through irresponsible and unIslamic acts.
Reminding the leaders of the consideration that Prophet Muhammad had shown to the enemies of Islam, he said that they too should do the same.
"It is winning the struggle that is important, not angry retaliation, not revenge," he said.