Malaysia's prime minister is urging Muslims to equip themselves with modern knowledge and weapons. But he also warned that Muslims should not try to reach their aims through terrorism.
Speaking in the Malaysian capital, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Muslims have not sufficiently tried to change what he described as "their weakness and backwardness."
In a speech opening a three-day conference of Islamic scholars, Mr. Mahathir said Muslims are being humiliated by being linked to terrorism.
He said Muslims have not kept up with military and armaments technology, and urged that they become capable of defending themselves. But Mr. Mahathir said terrorist acts will not advance the cause of Islam.
"Our salvation will not be achieved by blindly killing innocent people," he said. "Rather, we should plan and execute a long-term development plan, and to excel in all fields. Our rehabilitation will take a long time. We have to be patient."
Mr. Mahathir has been sharply critical of the U.S.-led attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. While he has also been a staunch supporter of the war against terrorism, he has criticized the way it has been waged. He recently accused the West of using the war on terrorism as an excuse to return to what he labeled "violent old ways."
Mr. Mahathir is due to retire later this year, after leading the predominantly Muslim nation of Malaysia for 22 years. He has often proudly pointed to his country as a model of development for an Islamic nation.
Some 800 delegates from 33 countries have gathered for the Islamic meeting in Putrajaya, Malaysia's administrative capital. They are expected to discuss a wide range of issues relating to development, terrorism, and world perceptions of their religion.