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Mahathir blames Muslim countries for rising Islamophobia

  • Yudith Ho

    Bloomberg

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia   /   Thu, December 19, 2019   /   01:56 pm
Mahathir blames Muslim countries for rising Islamophobia Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a joint news conference with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (not pictured) in Putrajaya, Malaysia April 9, 2019. (Reuters/Lai Seng Sin)

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has called the leaders of Muslim countries to task over negative views of Islam, asking them to come up with a concerted plan to address Islamophobia.

Speaking to state leaders including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Mahathir said “disreputable acts of terror” had caused fear of the religion to the point of creating phobia.

“Yes, we are angry and frustrated,” he said at the KL Summit in the capital Kuala Lumpur Thursday. “We cannot wage a conventional war. No country would help us. But even so, what do we gain by such indiscriminate violent acts? Nothing.”

Mahathir bemoaned the plight of those who had to flee their homes to seek refuge elsewhere, while many Muslim countries remain “beholden” to powerful non-Muslim nations. The comments come amid silence from the Islamic world on China’s widespread detention of mostly Uighur Muslims and India’s controversial citizenship law that discriminates against Muslims.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, another gathering of Muslim countries, had commended China for “providing care” to its Muslim citizens. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan won’t attend the KL Summit over concern the meeting would rival the OIC.

Mahathir has downplayed that worry, saying Malaysia is too small to pose a challenge and that he only seeks to “spark a sense of purpose.”

“If our efforts yield fruits, we would like to take them up with other Muslim nations that share our concerns and desire to do something to improve the plight of our brethren,” Mahathir said in the speech.