Thursday October 16, 2003 03:30 PM


Mr. Chairman

Your Majesties

Your Royal Highnesses

Your Excellencies

May I first thank His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and the Government and people of the State of Qatar for their chairmanship of the OIC over the last three years. Their work has been demanding and often extremely difficult. We are most grateful for the leadership they have offered.

Mr. Chairman, it is a great pleasure to be attending an OIC Summit in our own region. I am sure our people throughout South East Asia feel greatly honoured.

For this reason, I would like to express my appreciation to the government and people of Malaysia. I thank them not only for making us feel so welcome and for all the excellent arrangements they have made but also for the efforts they have made to bring the leaders of the Islamic World to the regional home we share. They have helped make the OIC a visible and real presence in our people's lives.

In saying this, I would particularly like to say how much I appreciate the contribution to this made by Dato' Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohammad. He and I share over two decades of friendship and close cooperation.

During this time, he has never failed to promote vital interests of the ordinary people of developing nations. He has given voices to their most cherished aspirations for peace, stability, and simple personal happiness.

For Muslims, he has been a powerful advocate for the causes held most dear by the OtC and for the important role to be played by Muslims in today's diverse and inter-dependent world.

I offer my deepest respect for this great contribution to the affairs of our Organisation.

Mr. Chairman, I am particularly pleased with the theme that has been adopted for our Summit. I feel it inspires positive thinking at a time when many of our people may be questioning their place in the world, and may even be feeling somewhat under siege in their own societies.

It may also, I believe, help us as leaders. Those of us privileged to lead nations today share many of the feelings I have mentioned. They go far beyond traditional domestic concerns and relations with one's immediate neighbours.

They involve the grave threats to national and International security posed by terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. They encompass the often alarming state of the environment of the planet we all share. They demand solutions to the deepening poverty in which so many millions of people lead their lives. And each arouse profound feelings of hopelessness; despair; anger and frustration.

Every leader is aware of the effects they have on the day-to-day lives of their people and the challenges they present to stability and order. In this, we in the OIC face the same difficulties as our colleagues from other cultures and other societies.

In addition, we in the OIC, must face the unique challenge of representing Islamic nations and Muslim people. We have to do this at a time of great confusion all over the world.

Muslims, like any other people, not only wish to lead their lives in peace and prosperity as members of the same faith. They also wish to play their part in all human affairs as they have always done whenever their talents are needed and whenever their knowledge and skills are called upon.

History demonstrates the enormous contribution Muslims have made to human progress. Today, throughout the world and in every walk of life, this continues to be made.

There was a time in human history when the greatest advances in knowledge ever previously known were taken by Muslim scholars and shared with the rest of humanity.

Human achievement owes a great deal to Islamic scholarship and the pursuit of knowledge by Muslims thinkers, artists and scientists. All this was founded on moral imperatives. High on the list of these has always been the encouragement our faith gives to discovery to the seeking of information and to working constructively with our fellows.

I say this because I feel we have no need to explain or justify our faith. As leaders, however, we do have a need to make its achievements a matter of enormous pride and self-respect for our people.

This is particularly important today.

Headlines focus attention on the actions of people who are no more than international criminals claiming to act in our names. But behind these moments of "breaking news", are millions of hard-working ordinary Muslim citizens of their countries; sure in their faith and contributing to the well-being of their families, communities and fellow men and women.

I feel it is time for the OIC to give them the attention they are due. I hope the OIC can help reinforce their confidence in the future and their confidence in themselves and their fellow Muslims.

There is no contradiction in this posed by our fierce desire to see justice at long last given to our brothers in Palestine; nor in our refusal to accept any justification whatsoever for Israel's recent attack on the sovereign territory of Syria and its total disregard for the basic tenets of conduct between nations.

This is certainly not in our insistence that all fellow Muslims receive respect, dignity and fairness wherever they may live. This is entirely consistent with our Islamic world view.

It demands that international policy be based on moral principles. Such feelings are a magnificent contribution to world affairs and we make no apology for them. We are enormously proud of them and I feel we should be doing all we can to promote them.

They are not expressed in bombs and the murder of innocent fellow human beings. They are inclusive. They are tolerant. They are multinational. They reach to the heart of the United Nations Charter.

If I may say so, Mr. Chairman, evidence of them in practical form is not far away from us here. If we look around the beautiful country that is so graciously hosting us here, we can see how a predominantly Muslim nation is attempting to give them living practical form and constantly seeking more knowledge and constantly reaffirming the values upon which its society as a whole is founded.

I congratulate the people of Malaysia on their achievements and deeply respect their endeavours.

Thank you.