Contact Us



By Linda S. Heard

Now that Mahatir Mohammed has cleared his desk and gone into retirement - one of very few leaders to have willingly relinquished his office - he may well be pondering on the sentiments of the late Martin Luther King:"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

It is certainly true that delegates from some 57 Moslem countries gave Dr. Mohammed a spontaneous standing ovation after his controversial opening address at the 10th Summit of the OIC, but since the international heat was turned up, those same leaders became eerily silent.

The former Malaysian Prime Minister, long been considered outspoken and feisty, is generally respected throughout the Moslem world for his honesty. True to his reputation, he used his premiership swan song to say it like it is - or at least how he believes it is - causing outraged ripples throughout the planet.

"We (Moslems) are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. 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," is the much-quoted part of his oratory.

This usage of the word "Jews" rather than "Israelis" left the way open for the Israeli government along with Jewish lobbies and groups to have a field day.

Mahatir Mohammed is an anti-Semite, they screamed attempting to conjoin him with the likes of Hitler and Goebbels - a linkage they sought to portray to the world.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry put out a statement in the Jerusalem Post saying that it was "extremely repulsed" by the remark, calling it "an incitement to hatred".

Abraham Foxman, director of one of America's most powerful Jewish lobbies said: "For him (Mahatir Mohammed) to call for final victory against Jews by 1.3 billion Moslems... is a call for religious war... it cannot be tolerated..."

The Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations in Geneva issued its own statement: "It is a shame that...Dr. Mahatir Mohammed could not restrain himself from resurrecting vile invectives, innuendoes and outright lies taken straight from classic anti-Semitic propaganda. The civilized world has seen the results of such violent rhetoric in the past.

"We call on right-thinking people and countries, both in the Moslem world and outside of it, to utterly condemn the invocation of the same anti-Semitic ideas, which led to the worst case of mass murder in human history."

And, true to form, condemn it they did.

J. Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman for the U.S. Department of State in Washington said: "Let's be clear. The remarks are offensive, they are inflammatory and we view them with the contempt and derision they deserve."

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said, on behalf of the EU: "Europe profoundly deplores statements by the Malaysian Prime Minister ... He used gravely offensive expressions not only towards the Jews - expressions that were strongly anti-Semitic but also words that ran counter to the principles of tolerance and dialogue between the West and the Moslem world."

Apart from the President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzi, who said he didn't think Mahatir's comments were anti-Semitic; Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher who called it "a good road map" towards Moslem empowerment, and Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu-Bakr Al Quirbi, who also said he didn't think the speech was anti-Semitic, there were few high-ups who stuck their necks over the parapet to rush to Mahatir's defence.

Despite the urgings of the Simon Weisenthal Centre to stop investing in or doing business with Malaysia, and the US Senate tying US$1.2 million in military aid to religion freedom in the country, Mahatir was unrepentant.

Amid calls for an apology, Mahatir claimed that anti-Islamic Westerners such as the Rev. Jerry Falwell, receive carte blanche to vilify the Prophet Mohammed. "Are we not allowed at all to criticise the Jews if they do things which are wrong?" Mahatir asked. "If Moslems can be accused of being terrorists, then others can accuse the Jews of being terrorists also."

Mahatir also accused Western leaders of being biased. "They feel that while it is proper to criticise Moslems and Arabs," he said, "it is not proper to criticize Europeans or Jews."

"Are we not allowed to say we're angry with the Jews?" Mahathir asked. "Are the Jews some kind of creatures who cannot be condemned in any way?"

The controversy was ratcheted up when Mahatir accused the American President of being "a liar" over his claim that he had taken the Malaysian leader to task over his keynote speech.

He also rounded on the EU. "You say that you are not under the influence of the Jews, and yet when I criticise the Jews, the whole of the European Union wants to condemn me," he said. "But when somebody condemns the Moslems, does the European Union say anything?"

"We are dealing with anti-Moslem people," he told journalists. "They can be anti-Moslem but we cannot even say one word about the Jews without being accused of being an anti-Semite."

Mahatir also accused the West of intimidating weaker countries and of having a lack of morality. "I don't care if the Europeans don't like me. I have European friends but when they do something wrong, I am going to tell them that it is wrong," he said.

He added that he believed many Moslem leaders secretly backed his stance but were too scared of Western powers to publicly express their support.

Mahatir is right in that anti-Semitic labels are invariably slapped on anyone who dares to criticise Jews or Israel.

The wife of the European Central Bank Greta Duisenberg was called an anti-Semite for flying a Palestinian flag from her balcony; Mel Gibson has been called an anti-Semite for making a film of the life of Jesus depicting Jews as giving the thumbs up for his crucifixion and the same goes for British actress Vanessa Redgrave who has long supported the Palestinian cause.

Moslems, on the other hand, have become fair game since 9-11 when in the U.S. anti-Islamic crime surged by a staggering 1,600 per cent according to an FBI report.

Even today Moslems in the U.S. are often harassed at work and discriminated against in the housing market says Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on Islamic-American Relations.

"A lot of people say their co-workers are very hostile; they are still being smeared as "terrorists"; they are harassed because of their dress; their prayer routine and their need to fast," said Hooper.

Arab residents of the U.S. still have to register with the authorities, many of them subject to deportation due to minor visa irregularities, while those wishing to visit for purposes of study or medical treatment are finding it almost impossible to get visas.

We mustn't forget either that since 9-11 two Moslem countries - Afghanistan and Iraq - have been invaded, while a further two, Syria and Iran, are under threat from both the U.S. and Israel.

It is perfectly correct that the Holocaust was one of mankind's darkest moments and should never be forgiven, but the way that Israel and Jewish groups use this historical blot on humanity to ward off their often legitimate critics is dishonest.

Jews today are in powerful positions, even inside the U.S. administration, while Israel comes not only under the protection of the Superpower, it is also the third most militarily powerful country in the world, with 200 nuclear missiles poised to go. The idea that Mahatir's comments could spark another genocide and leave Jews open to annihilation, as many are attempting to suggest is, frankly, ridiculous.

Indeed, Mahatir reserved his most acerbic comments for the Moslem world but nobody has accused him of being anti-Moslem or anti-Arab or even a self-hating Moslem. These parts of his OIC speech have hardly been quoted.

     "We are all Moslems," he said. "We are all oppressed. We are all being humiliated. But we, who have been raised by Allah above our fellow Moslems to rule our countries, have never really tried to act in concert in order to exhibit our level the brotherhood and unity that is Islam...

"From being a single nation, we have allowed ourselves to be divided into numerous sects... each more concerned with claiming to (represent) the true Islam... We fail to notice that our detractors and enemies do not care whether we are true Moslems or not... They will attack and kill us, invade our lands, bring down our governments whether we are Sunnis or Shias, Alawait or Druze or whatever. And we will aid and abet them by attacking and weakening each other, and sometimes by doing their bidding, acting as their proxies to attack fellow Moslems...

"Today we, all Moslem nations, are treated with contempt and dishonour. Our religion is denigrated. Our holy places desecrated. Our countries are occupied. Our people starved and killed. None of our countries are truly independent.

"We are under pressure to conform to our oppressor's wishes about how we should behave, how we should govern our lands, how we should think even. Today, if they want to raid our country, kill our people, destroy our villages and towns, there is nothing substantial that we can do. Is it Islam, which has caused all this? Or is that we have failed to do our duty according to our religion?

Strong words, indeed! But love him or hate him, Mahatir Mohammed has a powerful character, one that enabled him to drag his country kicking and screaming into a modern state offering its nationals a high standard of living.

It was Mahatir who defied the IMF, the World Bank and the U.S. Treasury when he clamped control on foreign capital and fixed his country's exchange rate in 1988 at a time when Asian economies were faltering. Despite dire warnings from U.S. so-called financial experts, Malaysia was the only country in South-East Asia to ride the storm.

With exports set to rise by as much as six per cent next year, the Ringgit still pegged to the Dollar and a thriving tourist industry, Mahatir leaves behind a healthy financial future for his country as well as a unified multi-ethnic population.

If his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi does only half as well, prospects look bright for Malaysia. He may do even better on the home front, but one thing is sure, Mahatir Mohammed is a one-off, a statesman who never feared to shoot from the hip or pull any punches. He'll certainly be a hard act to follow.



| Top | Home | Al Habtoor Group | Metropolitan Hotels | Al Habtoor Automobiles |
Diamond Leasing | Emirates International School |