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Islamic Conference Urges World Not to Link Islam and Terror - 2002-04-03

Muslim nations are calling on the world community to correct a misperception of associating terrorism with Islam and the Palestinian struggle. The 57 members of the Islamic Conference, did not agree on the definition of terrorism. Malaysia's Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Abar closed the special conference by saying it demonstrated the resolve of Muslim countries to combat terrorism and respond to developments affecting Muslims in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. "We have reiterated that terrorism has no particular face or image and cannot be linked to any group of people, religion or culture," he said. "We have stated clearly that all acts of terrorism are against the divine teachings of Islam."

The Malaysian foreign minister added, however, that in order to eliminate terrorism, the international community must identify and address its root causes, which delegates identified as poverty, repression and anger over issues like the violence in the Middle East.

The conference was convened to forge consensus on a Muslim definition for terrorism, but delegates disagreed over whether Palestinian suicide bombings should be labeled terrorist acts. Moderate members felt they should be. But many delegations, upset over the Israeli attacks against the Palestinian authority, said Muslim nations must express complete support for what delegates agree is the Palestinian struggle against foreign occupation.

The conference instead called on the United Nations to work for a definition of terrorism. Many observers say this task will be difficult because of differences similar to those faced by the Islamic Conference.

Pakistani Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider nevertheless called the conference a success, saying the delegates agreed on a joint plan of action. "We have to see that Muslim countries are not targeted in a whimsical, arbitrary manner and that terrorism does not, as the world media is trying to prove, becomes synonymous with Islam," he said.

The plan of action adopted by the conference creates a special committee to build consensus among Muslim nations on anti-terrorism policies and to lobby for Muslim positions on these issues before the international community.