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OIC Summit Host Responds to Criticism of Mahathir's Remarks About Jews - 2003-10-17


Leaders of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Conference are wrapping up a summit in Malaysia that is expected to condemn Israel's recent strikes against Syria and the Palestinian territories. But the day is being overshadowed by international criticism of summit chairman, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who made controversial remarks about Jews on Thursday.

For Islamic conference host, Malaysia, Friday began with damage control. Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar responded to criticism of Prime Minister Mahathir's remarks about the Jewish people, saying he was misunderstood.

"The prime minister's statement is a statement calling for moderation, calling not to utilize violence to achieve our objective, start to think, look at the example of what the Jewish community achieved," he said. "They are small in number but they are strong. So what's wrong with that?"

Australia, the European Union and Belgium have called the Malaysian prime minister's remarks anti-Jewish.

Mr. Mahathir made the remarks in an opening speech Thursday in which he criticized the Muslim world for its lack of influence in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and other issues.

"We are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out," he said. "The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them."

In his speech, Mr. Mahathir added that because of their success, the Jewish people have become arrogant and arrogant people make mistakes. He said this provides opportunities. But he counseled against seeking revenge, saying Muslim leaders should use their brains, and not brawn, in the struggle with Israel.

The leaders of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, are concluding the summit with a declaration that strongly condemns Israeli violence against Palestinians and other Arab neighbors and urges the United Nations to take a more active role in protecting these people.

Mr. Hamid Albar says there is also a push to make the OIC a more effective and influential organization.

"We need to look at our constitution, our charter, how we operate now, whether it is relevant and responsive to the new challenges or not," he said. "If not, we should be willing to revisit, re-examine and see what should be the next step."

The Malaysian foreign minister says summit leaders took note of Thursday's U.N. resolution on Iraq to attract more money and troops to help the United States stabilize post-war Iraq. He says that there is consensus that no more troops should be sent to Iraq because it will only delay a transition to self-government.

The Iraqi delegation to the summit has reacted cautiously to the resolution, reiterating that it wants sovereignty returned to the Iraqi people as soon as possible.

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