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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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.