Tue, Oct 14, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Muslim nations bemoan weakness at OIC meeting

AFP , PUTRAJAYA, MALAYSIA

A bleak picture of weakness and disarray in the Muslim world was painted by foreign ministers meeting in Putrajaya, Malaysia, yesterday ahead of the biggest Islamic summit since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the US.

Islamic countries stand accused of terrorism and are threatened by sanctions, plagued by economic problems and ethnic strife, while some are under foreign occupation, speakers said at the opening session of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) meeting.

OIC Secretary-General Abdelouahed Belkeziz warned that the "dangers" confronting Muslims were "unprecedented in [their] contemporary history."

"Muslims are filled with feelings of impotence and frustration as some of their countries are occupied, others are under sanctions, a third group threatened and a fourth group accused of sponsoring terrorism," he said.

"Muslims abroad are considered with suspicion, besieged, deprived of their rights," Belkeziz said.

He also pointed to the economic weakness of Islamic states, many of which depend heavily on oil revenue that can no longer meet the needs of their growing populations, causing rising unemployment and poverty.

"Our economic conditions are fragile and weak compared to large economic blocs and we cannot achieve minimum economic coordination," he said.

The world seemed to have forgotten about the high values of Islam, stressing only the violence perpetrated by extremists, Belkeziz added, deploring the inability of politicians and the media to correct this image.

"Islam itself is being accused in its culture, civilization and mes-sage. Our religion is a religion of peace and tolerance ... it stresses the sanctity of human life, it upholds the noble values and calls for welfare," he said.

"Our media is unable to confront the false accusations and joint Islamic political action is unable to confer to us protection and pride," he said.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said "the threat of unilateralism, globalization and terrorism, the precarious situation in the Middle East and the uncertain future of Iraq ... have only served to threaten our very survival."

He called on the leaders of the Islamic states, who are to meet at the summit in Putrajaya on Thursday, to end the paralysis of the OIC and give it a political mandate and financial means to forge closer cooperation between its 57 members and 1.3 billion people scattered on four continents.

"Malaysia believes that we need to move away from mere rhetoric," he said, calling for closer cooperation to "close the gap of economic disparities" between OIC members.

Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr Al-Thani said the Islamic world needed "a general renaissance."

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