U.S. Embassy in Malaysia to issue
KUALA LUMPUR--A refusal by the United States to renew student visas for 150 Malaysians is the price the country has to pay for being Islamic, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Tuesday.
"When we hold to what is true, there is definitely a price to pay. We just accept it," Mahathir told a news conference.
He was responding to reports that the US had barred 150 male Muslim students from continuing their university education there, following stricter visa restrictions.
Mahathir said the government would not oppose the decision or file a complaint with the US.
"It's their country, I suppose they have the right. We also have our own rules for those coming to our country.
"Of course we have to find a way of making (the students) continue with their education. These are not terrorists."
The United States embassy here Tuesday said responding to the terrorists' attacks of September 11, the US government has been engaged in an extensive and ongoing review of visa issuing practices.
"Visa applications are now subject to a greater degree of scrutiny than in the past and this means that applications in some instances take longer to process.
"That time needed for adjudication of individual cases will continue to be difficult to predict. We deeply regret that this change in procedure has affected many Malaysian students," the embassy said in a statement.
The embassy said that while issuing of visas has been delayed, "very few students who have applied for visas to study in the US have actually been denied a visa."
Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is in New York, told the official Bernama news agency that the US government had pledged to speed up the issuance of visas to students who were still awaiting clearance.
Abdullah, who had earlier met the director of homeland security, Tom Ridge, said the US had a list of countries which it considered to be high risk in terms of terrorism and that Malaysia was on that list along with several other Islamic countries.