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Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Muslim world needs another Mahathir Mohamad to stand up to the West

By Kaleem Omar

The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) countries are at sixes and sevens these days and seem unable to make a convincing case for the legitimate rights and concerns of the Muslim world in its dealings with the West, and, more particularly, with the United States, where most Muslim nations continue to be regarded by the neo-con Bush administration and its cohorts in the pro-Israeli sections of the American media as “terrorist” states or states providing “support” or “safe havens” to anti-Western terrorists.

The OIC itself has become a largely ineffectual organisation concerned more with the minutiae of drafting hollow-sounding resolutions and summit declarations than with matters of substance. The OIC was unable to do anything to prevent the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 or the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. Nor was it able to do anything to prevent the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

Nor has the OIC been able to take any steps to persuade Israel to stop its brutal military actions and acts of state terrorism against the Palestinian people or the building of a monstrous Apartheid Wall around the West Bank on land stolen from the Palestinians.

The OIC has also not been able to take any steps to persuade India to stop its reign of terror in occupied-Kashmir – in which more than 70,000 innocent Kashmiri Muslim civilians have been killed by Indian troops since December 1989. India’s reign of terror has turned occupied-Kashmir into a territory resembling a concentration camp, while the OIC has sat by looking the other way and twiddling its thumbs.

This is not to say that the OIC countries could have taken on the US militarily to prevent it from invading Afghanistan or Iraq; but the OIC oil-exporting countries could certainly have acted in concert with non-Arab members of OPEC to impose an oil embargo on the oil-hungry United States (the world’s biggest consumer and importer of oil) to put pressure on it to desist from its misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Instead of taking any such steps, however, the OIC oil-exporting countries have been content to cash in on the rise in oil prices triggered by the Iraq war, earning a windfall of hundreds of billions of extra dollars in the process. The oil-exporting OIC countries seem to be totally unconcerned by the fact that those windfall profits have been earned at the cost of the lives of hundreds of thousands pf innocent Iraqi civilians that have been killed during the US’s invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Now, Iran seems to be next on the list of OIC countries against which the Bush administration is planning military action – using as an excuse Iran’s uranium enrichment programme, which Iran says is meant entirely for peaceful purposes and aimed at producing fuel for the nuclear power plant it is building with Russian help, but which the United States claims is actually aimed at producing nuclear weapons.

The Bush administration used the cooked-up charge that Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed “weapons of mass destruction” including nuclear weapons (now known as “weapons of mass disappearance”) as an excuse to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003.

Now, four years later, the Bush administration seems to be getting ready to play the same “nuclear weapons” card as an excuse to attack Iran. Meanwhile, the OIC, as usual, is sitting doing nothing and looking the other way as Washington’s orchestrated drum-beat for an attack on Iran grows louder and louder.

This sorry state of affairs underscores the need for the OIC countries to find another leader of the caliber, stature and independent-mindedness of former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to represent the Muslim world in its dealings with the United States and other Western countries.

Mahathir Mohamad, 82, stepped down as his country’s prime minister in November 2003, after 22 years in office, making him Asia’s longest-serving leader,

In his book “The Malay Dilemma” published in 1969, before he became prime minister, he wrote that the Malays had been marginalised during the colonial era (when the then-Malaya was a British colony) and castigated them for apathetically accepting second-class status.

Mahathir towered over his country’s politics for more than two decades, His pragmatic policies won him much popular support and helped transform Malaysia into an Asian economic tiger. Thanks to his policies, Malaysia, today, is the most technologically advanced and most industrially developed OIC country.

Throughout his tenure as prime minister, Mahathir continued to create waves with his frequent barbed comments about the West and its policies towards developing countries.

In his opening address at the 10th session of the OIC summit in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on October 16, 2003, Dr Mahathir was again at his acerbic best. To thunderous applause from the gallery, which included representatives of 57 Muslim nations plus Russian President Vladimir Putin and Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Mahathir let fly with a stinging statement.

“We are actually very strong,” he said. “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.”

His comments created a storm of criticism in the West, but Mahathir said later that such criticism only showed that the Jews did indeed rule the world.

Four days later, in a speech in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta on October 22, 2003, he launched another blistering attack on the West, accusing countries that he called the “great practitioners of democracy” of “terrorising the world.”

Dr Mahathir did not name the countries. But he is an outspoken critic of Israel, the United States and Australia. He criticised states that launched “massive retaliation” for terrorist acts.

“We see states launching massive retaliation, not just to curb suspected terrorists, but his family, his home, his village and his town. It would be ridiculous to think that such attacks do not terrorise the innocent,” he said.

Mahathir Mohamad has long been a champion of the economic rights of developing countries and one of the most outspoken critics of the West’s policies, including globalisation.

On October 20, 2003, just eleven days before he was due to step down as Malaysia’s prime minister, he reflected in an interview with the Bangkok Post on his 22 years at the helm and – as always – spoke his mind: on terrorism, global trade and democracy.

Mahathir transformed Malaysia from a tin and rubber-producing economic backwater into the 17th biggest trading nation in the world and a model of development for other developing countries.

After becoming prime minister in 1981, Mahathir set about putting his ideas into practice, following the example set by Japan, transforming Malaysia from an economic backwater, an exporter of rubber and tin, into a manufacturer of electronic equipment, steel and cars.

His prestige projects included the world’s tallest buildings – the Petronas Towers – and the transformation of a palm oil plantation near the capital, Kuala Lumpur, into the world’s first “Multimedia Super Corridor” – a cyber powerhouse intended to rival California’s Silicon Valley.

With an average annual income of $ 7,500 per capita (ten times Pakistan’s), Malaysia, today, is a rapidly industrialising country, exporting electronic equipment, petroleum and liquefied natural gas, chemicals, palm oil, wood and wood products, rubber, textiles and a wide range of other products.

Mahathir’s policies have also given the country an infrastructure as good as that of most developed nations, with modern highways, airports, ports, telecommunication and internet networks, power grids, schools, colleges, hospitals and some of the world’s best tourist resorts.

When the Asian economic crisis erupted in June 1997, (triggered by the collapse of the Thai baht), Mahathir blamed foreign currency traders, including US-based financier George Soros, for what he termed a worldwide Jewish conspiracy.

“We are Muslims and the Jews are not happy to see Muslims progress,” he said in October 1997. We may suspect that they have an agenda but we do not want to accuse them…If viewed from Palestine, the Jews have robbed Palestinians of everything but they cannot do this in Malaysia, so they create a financial crisis instead.”

Mahathir was heavily criticised by some in the West for those remarks, but he remained characteristically unrepentant and continued to lash out at the West’s economic policies, which he said were aimed at keeping developing countries poor and making the rich countries even richer.

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