Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi Friday, February 10, urged the Muslim world and the West to accept one another as equals, blasting "demonization of Islam" in the West. "The West should treat Islam the way it wants Islam to treat the West and vice versa. They should accept one another as equals," Badawi told the International Conference on "Who Speaks for Islam? Who Speaks for the West", according to Malaysia's news agency Bernama.
Badawi further said certain voices, both in the West and Muslim world, shared a common perspective on some of the critical challenges facing both civilizations and the world at large. "Both were opposed to hegemony, rejected violence and terror, yearned for a just and peaceful world, united by a common bond and it was this common bond that made them bridge-builders."
Abdullah said Western nations wanted to control the world's oil and gas, and blamed that desire along with colonialism and "the imposition of Israel upon the Arab world" for a rift with the Muslim faith. The premier also said Muslims saw the "hegemony" of Western powers "manifested directly in the attack upon Afghanistan and in the occupation of Iraq".
The two-day conference brings together 60 leaders from the Muslim world, the United States, Europe and other Western countries. Delegates are discussing how policymakers can develop policies to ensure that globalization benefits Muslims and diffuse Muslim grievances towards the West.
The Malaysian Premier also blasted the demonization of Islam and Muslims in the West. "Many in the West see Islam as synonymous with violence. The Muslim is viewed as a congenital terrorist," said Badawi, whose country currently chairs the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
"They think Osama bin Laden speaks for the religion and its followers. Islam and Muslims are linked to all that is negative and backward," he said. "The demonization of Islam and the vilification of Muslims, there is no denying, is widespread within mainstream Western society." He added that the targeting of the so-called "Islamic terrorists" had aggravated the situation.
The Malaysian top official also admitted that the "senseless violence" committed by extremists had made things worse between the Muslim world and the West. "I hold the strong view that in the case of Islam, those who deliberately kill non-combatants and the innocent; those who oppress and exploit others; those who are corrupt and greedy; those who are chauvinistic and communal, do not speak on behalf of Islam," he said.
He added that there were many in the West, for instance, who realized that the exercise of hegemonic power and the demonization of Islam were not conducive for inter-civilizational peace. Likewise, he said, there were numerous groups and individuals in the Muslim world who were deeply distressed by the violence and terror perpetrated by certain fringe groups. "They oppose hegemony and occupation but their words are authentic voices of Islam," he said.
Badawi called on Muslims to oppose "the sweeping denunciations of Christians, Jews and the West as well as violence perpetrated by certain fringe groups. "Let us start now by curbing the extremists in our midst. We must put a stop to the mockery of any religion or the sacrilege of any symbol held sacred by the faithful," he added, in apparent reference to the insulting cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) published by European newspapers. "In the face of fanaticism and hysteria, we must take action to counsel moderation and rationality," he said.
In the case of the West, Badawi said that some countries were seeking to impose hegemony in the name of freedom. "Anyone who seeks to dominate and control, who attempts to establish global hegemony, cannot claim to be spreading freedom and equality at the same time," he said.