UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) – Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the 77-year-old Malaysian prime minister, said the global reaction, including criticism from international leaders to his remarks at a summit of Islamic nations shows that he was on target.
In an interview with the Bangkok Post on October 22, Dr. Mohamad said he would stand by his earlier statements, and he continued his verbal assault on American foreign policy when he suggested the U.S. and Israel were engaging in “state terrorism.”
The U.S. called Dr. Mohamad’s remarks “hate-filled.” Press reports were circulating that President George W. Bush had pulled the Malaysian prime minister aside to tell him his comment at the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) that the Jews “rule by proxy” was “wrong and divisive.”.Mr. Bush was quoted by Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, as saying to the Malaysian leader: “It stands squarely against what I believe in.”
Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. president’s national security adviser, said she did not “see Mr. Mahathir’s comments as emblematic of the Muslim world” but “hateful” and “outrageous” and a “perversion of the Muslim faith,” according to the Washington Post.
However, at a news conference in Bangkok, Dr. Mohamad denied reports that Pres. Bush “rebuked” him at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Thailand, which happened days after Dr. Mohamad’s remarks at the OIC meeting on October 16. “I would like to explain that he took me aside, in order to explain to me why he made such a strong statement against me.” “Certainly, he did not rebuke me,” Mr. Mohamad said. He planned to step down at the end of October after 22 years of service.
According to observers, the western press has made much to do of the 28 words in Dr. Mohamad’s speech in which he referred to Jewish /Arab relations. They add that the western media has also served as a platform for the opinions of western leaders such as Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, who summed up western reaction by saying it was “strongly counter to principles of tolerance, dialogue and understanding between the western and the Islamic worlds.”
In Israel, there were charges of “anti-Semitism” leveled at Dr. Mohamad. In an editorial in the daily newspaper The Jerusalem Post, there was a call for Europe to stand up to the Malaysian leaders remarks. “At the very least, Europe must challenge, and if necessary, penalize an Islamic Conference that expresses itself so freely on the subject of the Jews,” the editorial read.
But in the Islamic world, news dailies recalling the backlash against the prime minister’s remarks asked why the “provocative anti-Islamic remarks” made by a prominent U.S. Army general have yet to receive the same condemnation as Dr. Mohamad’s.
U.S. Deputy Undersecretary for Intelligence General William Boykin came under fire in the Beirut daily Ashraq. “In one of the most anti-Islamic remarks yet by a U.S. official, Boykin accused Muslims of idolatry,” the paper said. Gen. Boykin had said during the U.S. offensive against Somalia, a Somali fighter told him that U.S. forces would never get him because he (the Somali) was “protected by God.”
“You all know as I do that my God is greater than his. In fact, I knew that my God is genuine while his is just a stone idol,” Gen. Boykin was quoting as saying.
“This U.S. general did not stop at that, but revealed his entire grudge against Muslims. He claimed that Muslims hated the United States because the Americans are Christians and the only way to defeat the enemy is through unity under Christ’s name,” the newspaper said.
While aboard Air Force One on Oct. 22, Pres. Bush told reporters that he repudiated the views of the general, according to the Associated Press, but “brushed aside” congressional calls for him to reassign the general. Mr. Bush was on his way to the world’s most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia, where there are reports of a growing mistrust of the U.S. among ordinary Indonesians.
U.S. representatives such as Jim Turner (D-Texas) say that it is important that the U.S. send a strong message that it is not against Islam. He told reporters that reassigning the general was important “simply to send the message, not only to the people of our country, but around the world, that we are firmly in accord that the war on terror is not a war against Islam.”
Observers in the Gulf region said the official American reaction to Gen. Boykin’s remarks fuelled the perception that there is a U.S. anti-Muslim sentiment. The Gulf News, a daily published in Dubai, highlighted what it called the West’s double standards: “Today’s state of the world demand the practice of peace, friendship, brotherhood, and tolerance principles, especially more so between the West and the Islamic world.
“Hence, inciting and confrontational comments such as those given by some in the West against Islam, is a guarantee for extremism to survive and indeed flourish.”
Some observers are pointing out that in the speech of the Malaysian prime minister, there was harsh criticism against terrorism, and a call for Muslims to stop fighting a losing battle and sue for peace. He condemned suicide bombers in Israel and urged Muslims to adopt policies that would not antagonize everyone. Observers said the prime minister’s western critics have largely ignored these points.
“Mr. Mahathir Mohamad was trying to coax the Muslims. He, in no way, was trying to insult the Israelis. Sometimes, when you tell the truth, there are those who say you spread hate,” Sri Lanka’s UN ambassador, Chithambaranathan Mahendran told The Final Call.
A high-level Syrian diplomat speaking to The Final Call in a corridor outside of the General Assembly chamber, said that Prime Minister Mohamad “told the truth and when you tell the truth the U.S. opposes that.” He said his government also appreciated the support from the OIC summit participants.
What also went largely ignored in the western media was the declaration endorsed by the 57 leaders at the OIC summit. Arab issues ranging from Palestine to Iraq to the recent attacks against Syria and Lebanon were high on the summit’s agenda. A final resolution called for safeguarding Iraq’s sovereignty and the unity of Iraq and its people. Similarly, summit participants were unanimous in condemning western threats to place Syria under sanctions, and stated that they would stand together with Syria.
Syrian President Bashar Assad told the conference participants that the resolutions show that Muslims do have the power to change their lot and make others respect and understand their views. “Muslims must cooperate and work together in order to end these vicious attacks against the religion of peace,” Mr. Assad said.
However, throughout the Muslim world, intellectuals are reportedly searching for the reasons behind their deteriorating conditions in the 21st century and the means of liberating their nations from alleged “backwardness” and in digging up a “reawakening of knowledge” that some say is necessary to enable Muslim communities to launch into a better future.
Akram Zadeh, who has spent the last 30 years at the UN working for Islamedia, said the answer to how 1.3 billion Muslims can unite, is “here in America.” He said it has been known for a long time that the Muslims are not united. “But,” he said, “It is important that American Muslims make the call for Muslim unity.”
Mr. Zadeh said that the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and Imam Warith Deen Mohammed can bring unity to the world Muslims. “Prime Minister Mohamad’s words do not create unity, his words only create interest in the subject. This is the best time for American Muslims to do something for Islam,” he argued.
Mr. Zadeh said he was talking not only of the work of the Nation of Islam and the American Muslim Society, but their examples of living together in peace, although elements in American society have tried to disrupt their unity.
Imam Izak-el M. Pasha, head of Harlem’s Malcolm Shabazz Masjid told The Final Call, “The difference for the Muslim born here in the Black community is clearly our past.” He said no other people endured what we did under slavery. “We were subjected to a unique brand of slavery, and in our heart-of-hearts, we cannot as Muslims harbor hatred for anyone,” Imam Pasha said.
Analysts such as Vassar College professor Lawrence Mamiya have suggested that, “Muslim unity could remake the American religious landscape.” He also said that the 1995 Million Man March in the worldview has made Minister Farrakhan an important player on the American scene. He said he finds that fact interesting because, of the six million Muslims in the U.S., only one-fourth are Black.
Other analysts point to the state of Mississippi, where they say there are approximately 4,000 Muslims. Observers say that the numbers of “African American” Muslims are slightly higher than the numbers of foreign-born Muslims and their families. Studies show that the earliest full-fledged Muslim community in Mississippi came under the banner of the Nation, and gathered in Jackson in the 1960s. Today, Mississippi Muslims have branched out to affiliate with organizations such as the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim American Society,
In Mississippi, alliances of Muslim within the state are represented through the Muslim Business Association and the Association of Mississippi Imams, who are active in representing Muslims in local politics.
Dr. Muqtedar M.A. Khan, editor-in-chief of the American Muslim Quarterly, says that American Muslims are fortunate to have among its many leaders those who have a vision of a strong and cohesive community. “The American Muslim community is itself multicultural, composed of all people from all races, and from nearly every country on the planet. American Muslims are rapidly becoming a microcosm of the global Muslim community,” Dr. Khan said.