Sep 16, 2006

Tun Mahathir - No such thing as a moderate Muslim

Extracted from REUTERS
ASTANA (Reuters) - There is no such thing as a moderate Muslim and U.S. President George W. Bush is mistaken in casting his war on terror in terms of a "struggle for civilisation", Malaysia's outspoken former prime minister says.

Mahathir Mohamad, who ruled Malaysia for 22 years and is known for his frequent barbs against what he has called Western double standards, said he believed even the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States were at root linked to Israel's occupation of Palestinian land.

"What is happening today has got nothing to do with religion. It has got to do with territorial disputes, mainly the dispute over Palestinian land," he told Reuters after a religious congress in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan.

He said Bush's description of America's "war on terror" as "a struggle for civilisation" on the fifth anniversary of the attacks was flawed, as was the West's hope that moderate Muslims would have a dominant voice.

"There is no such thing as a moderate Muslim," he said. "We are fundamentalists in Malaysia. We follow the true teachings of the religion and the true teachings do not teach us to bomb and kill people without reason."


On Bush's comments, Mahathir, 81, said: "He's not civilised, he shouldn't be talking about civilising others."

Although most of the men who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks were Saudis, Mahathir - whom Israel has in the past dubbed anti-Semitic - said he saw the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands as the root cause of Islamist extremism.

"They (the hijackers) had no direct link but there is a great deal of sympathy for the sufferings of the people of Palestine," he said.

"Maybe that is because they are co-religionists but it is not because their religion urges them to do so. The West tends to blame religion, they blame Islam for whatever happens and associate Islam with terrorism," he said.

He said he believed dubbing a fight against Islamic extremism as a struggle for civilisation risked becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"(Muslims) are without arms, they are weak and they are pushed into a corner. If you are pushed into a corner and the only thing you can do is bite, you bite," he said.

The tactics used by the United States and allies such as Britain were an attempt to "out-terrorise the terrorists" and would therefore fail, Mahathir said.

"Saddam Hussein terrorised his people, he killed many people. But how many did he kill compared to the numbers the Americans have caused to be killed?" he asked.

"They have opened a Pandora's Box and you have a civil war."

Mahathir provoked controversy throughout his long career. In 2003 he said Jews ruled the world by proxy, prompting condemnation from Israel and Western countries.

The jailing of his former deputy Anwar Ibrahim in 1998 on sodomy charges that Anwar said were trumped up caused many western democracies to shun Mahathir.

But he has also been widely hailed as the architect of modern Malaysia and a strong voice among Muslim and developing countries.

"When you target Muslim countries, other Muslims get angry and they try to retaliate the only way they can, by bombing or maybe attempts to blow up aircraft and so you think that these Muslims are really bad," Mahathir said.

"But think first what you have done to them and then you will realise that if you were in their position you would do the same thing."

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