April 8, 2005

Malaysia calls for end to "Islamophobia"

By Michael Perry

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The West must end "Islamophobia" and Muslim nations must tackle the causes of religious extremism, such as poverty, to win the fight against terrorism, the head of the world's largest body of Islamic nations says.
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, chairman of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said on Friday the war on terrorism could not be won by military might alone.
Abdullah said in a speech in Sydney that the West and the Muslim world must unite to tackle the "root causes of terrorism", such as poverty.
"The increasing gulf and misunderstanding between the West and the Muslim world must be bridged. But it requires both sides to work in tandem to close the chasm," said Abdullah. The IOC groups 57 Islamic nations.
"The non-Muslim world, especially the West, must be prepared to discard their prejudices against Islam. Muslims too must be prepared to begin a process of reform and renewal in their respective Muslim countries," he said.
Abdullah is in Australia in part to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement but the relationship between Australia and Malaysia remains uneasy.
The two have often differed, including on how to prosecute the war on terrorism. U.S. ally Australia was quick to join Washington's attack on Iraq while Malaysia opposed the invasion.
Abdullah said Malaysia's moderate form of Islam and its peaceful multi-faith society was an example of how to defeat religious extremism and terrorism.
"We have demonstrated that we can roll back the Islamists, not by engaging in a holier-than-thou contest, but by addressing the root causes of anger and frustration," said Abdullah, who defeated a rising Islamic opposition in 2004 elections.
Abdullah said the Muslim world abhorred terrorism in the name of Islam and should not be blamed for such atrocities.
"It is not justifiable to associate terrorism with any particular race or religion," he said. "Islam and Muslim countries should not be made accountable for them."
Abdullah said for the world to defeat extremism and terrorism it must first understand the causes of terrorism, singling out poverty as a major threat to global security.
"Today poverty is so serious a global problem that it is in fact a grave threat to global stability. Poverty could be the 'Trojan horse' for people who exploit the issue of poverty to camouflage their own secret agendas," he said.
Abdullah said Malaysia's moderate form of Islam, which he called "hadhari", made education a key policy aimed at elevating people from poverty and sharing in the nation's prosperity.
He said Malaysia was not seeking approval from the West, but wanted to send a message to other Muslim nations that Islam can embrace Western prosperity.
"It is not an approach to pacify the West. It is neither an approach to apologise for the perceived Islamic threat, nor an approach to seek approval from the non-Muslims for a more friendly and gentle image of Islam," he said.
"Malaysia offers a modest working model of renewal, reform and perhaps, renaissance in the Muslim world."

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"