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Pain is the predecessor of success.

1.1. Dr. M on BBC Part 1

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Dr Mahathir on Talking Point BBC World TV

The programme was broadcasted on BBC World Service radio and BBC World TV on Sunday, 12 October at 1400 GMT (10 pm Malaysian time)

Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Malaysian Prime Minister has held office since 1981, making him South East Asia’s longest serving head of government. After 22 years in power, he is due to retire in October 2003.

Dr Mahathir has overseen the transformation of Malaysia to one of Asia’s richest countries, with a strong electronics export sector and the world’s tallest buildings. He is critical of what he called the endless wars of Europe and its colonies and argued that the response to the 11 September attacks marked a return to old ways of attacking Muslim countries and Muslims, whether or not they are guilty.

The Malaysian prime minister has also condemned the US-led war on Iraq and Afghanistan. But he has also called on Muslim countries to embrace modernity.

In July, Dr Mahathir opened a global conference of Islamic scholars with the aim of countering misconceptions about Islam.

Transcript

Lyse Doucet:
Hello and welcome to Talking Point from the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, I’m Lyse Doucet. We’re broadcasting on BBC World Television, BBC World Service Radio and BBC News Online on the internet.

Our special guest is Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He’s Asia’s longest serving head of government and he steps down at the end of this month after 22 years in power. He’s with us here in the prime minister’s office in Kuala Lumpur.

He joins us as part of our series which brings together Islamic leaders and Muslims and non-Muslims from all walks of life to discuss the changing relationship between Islam and the West after the events of September 11th and the American-led invasion of Iraq.

Dr Mahathir calls Malaysia a model Islamic state and he’s repeatedly called on Muslims worldwide to acquire the skills and technology to, as he puts it, strike fear in the hearts of our enemies. And he’s had an equally blunt message for the West; criticising them for their treatment of Muslims and as well condemning the American-led action in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad welcome to Talking Point. We’ve received many e-mails from around the world and people who wish to speak to you by telephone. But if I could ask you first of all, you have set yourself up to be a standard bearer for a tolerant, moderate Islam, does it trouble you that particularly since the events of September 11th that what we often hear mostly is reports of violence and violence involving Muslims?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Well we did not set ourselves up to be a model of tolerant Islam. All we did was to do what we think is right according to the fundamentals of the Islamic religion. It is others who make this remark that we appear to be a model of tolerant Islam, not us. As far as we are concerned, we will do what we think is right by our religion.

Lyse Doucet:
But certainly the public discourse has been dominated by Muslim leaders who want to use violence as a tactic to achieve their aims. You yourself have criticised that saying killing does not get us anything.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Well that is a fact. We have been at it for the last 50 years in Palestine, for example, and we have achieved nothing. We have escalated the attacks against Muslims and we don’t see any victory in this – there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. So that is why we feel that that is not the right way. There must be other ways of doing these things.

Lyse Doucet:
Were the bombings in Bali in October of last year, a wake-up call for Islamic leaders in South East Asia? There are now said to have been links between the plotters of this attack and the madrassas, the Islamic schools, here in Malaysia?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
It can be seen to be a wake-up call. But in Malaysia we took action against this violent extremist group before 9/11. Once we discovered that they want to overthrow the government and gain power outside the democratic system, we had to act against them before people are killed by them.

Lyse Doucet:
But it’s ruing isn’t it, even here in Malaysia, where you’ve tried hard to fight against this, it could happen even here under your watch?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Yes on the one hand there is an attempt but it did not happen. There was some minor

Lyse Doucet:
The bombing took place and some would say that the strategies were actually discussed right here in Malaysia.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
It doesn’t happen in Malaysia – that’s the important thing. We are very vigilant and we know what is happening. We have good intelligence and we act before things happen.

Lyse Doucet:
Let’s now take one of our callers. Our first caller is on the line from the United States. Shariq Shahbazi. Shariq welcome to Talking Point what is your question for Dr Mahathir?

Shariq Shahbazi:
Thank you. It’s an honour and a privilege to speak to you sir. I read your comments on the BBC website and I agree with you sir that the Muslims are not united and are completely dependent on the West for their survival. My question is sir, if you feel you’ve done your part in helping the Muslim nations unite and shifting their reliance onto one another instead of the West? Also sir, do you intend to achieve this goal as the next head of OIC and if so how?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
It’s difficult to get 1.3 billion Muslims to unite, neither can we get all the over 50 Muslims countries to unite. But we feel that we can perpetrate perhaps a number of them to unite and also we can act effectively, despite the fact that there is not full unity. We are not too ambitious. We think that we should have a different strategy which can give us better results. So that is what we hope to do at the OIC meeting.

Lyse Doucet:
Shariq, do you think that Dr Mahathir should have a different kind of an answer? Do you have something specific you’d like to suggest that Muslims should do to work together?

Shariq Shahbazi:
Well I believe that King Faisal of Saudi Arabia had a vision about Muslim unity and I don’t think anybody – any leader – since has been able to implement that. People like me can just have the vision that Dr Mahathir is talking about, but I just don’t think we are in the position that Dr Mahathir and some other leaders are in and they need to come up with something to unite and use their intelligence, for example, how well Malaysia has done economically and maybe Dr Mahathir can guide other Muslim nations to follow that path and use some of the other countries where they have done well. But I am not sure – I just don’t see any progress in this regard and hopefully things will change when he is the head of the OIC.

Lyse Doucet:
Shariq, thank you very much for joining us from the United States. We have another caller on the line, coming from Hong Kong. Andrei, joins us.

Andrei:
Good morning, Dr Mahathir. My question is this: during your term as prime minister, you have highly appreciated the West for its various achievements. On the other hand you, sir, often would curse the West for various misdeeds. So can these contradictions be seen in one way or another as a manifestation or reflection of the so-called “clash of civilisations”?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
We there is apparently a clash of civilisations because today a lot of people feel that Muslims are terrorists led by a prophet who was a terrorist. Obviously there is enmity towards the Muslims. But we have a need to explain what Islam is all about. A lot of people think that the teachings of Islam make them confrontational. But in fact if you go to the fundamentals of Islam, we are urged to live in peace with each other and with others. It is the lack of understanding of Islam that has led to this present situation. No only a lack of understanding among the non-Muslims, even Muslims are subjected to different interpretations of Islam. We seem to emphasise the need for Muslims to be apart from people of other religions. That is why, because of these teachings, which I think is wrong, the Muslims, seem to be confrontational and unable to cooperate with others.

Lyse Doucet:
Andrei?

Andrei:
I would like to add one remark. Dr Mahathir, we can see Islam all over the planet in countries which mainly are poor and they are underdeveloped. Do you think that Islam really plays some – or could play some negative role in their economic and scientific development?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
No, not Islam. But the wrong interpretation of Islam can bring about that result. As you know, the same thing happens with Christianity. At one stage, Christians were very superstitious and very extreme – they used to burn people at the stake, they used to reject science, they used to reject learning. But that is not because Christianity teaches them that, but it is because they get the wrong interpretation of their religion. The same thing is happening with Islam. A lot of people make different interpretations and people believe in these wrong interpretations and the result is that Islam appears to be an obstruction to progress.

Lyse Doucet:
Andrei thank you for joining us from Hong Kong. A number of the people who e-mailed us had similar questions. David Hebblethwaite, e-mailed us from London, England: He wanted to know whether you thought there was a need for, what he called, an “Islamic Reformation”, to allow that modernisation to take place? If so, is not the battle within Islam itself, rather than between Islam and the West? The “clash of civilisations” which you seem to have agreed with?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
To a certain extent yes. But as I made the comparison with Christianity – even among Christians before there were different interpretations which led to some taking very extreme action. For example, the Spanish Inquisition is not a manifestation of Christianity but it is the result of people with vested interests interpreting Christianity in a way that suits their purposes.

The same thing is happening with the Muslims. We have people who are making interpretations which are contrary to the true teachings of Islam. There is no need for a reform of Islam. But there is a need to go back to the original true teachings of Islam.

Lyse Doucet:
Now you, in the first question from Andrei, talked about the “clash of civilisations”, but is that a really useful tool for us to use? Because Islamic states have criticised it, saying you cannot talk about Islam as one – there are many kinds of Islamic states in the same there are many different kinds of western countries. Isn’t it possible for it not to be a clash but for them to work together?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Well the Muslims are divided – there are clashes between them. But the non-Muslims seem to think of the Muslims as being monolithic and their attitude towards Muslims is uniform whether the Muslims are Sunni or Shias or whatever. They seem to think that any Muslim is incapable of being normal or being rational.

Lyse Doucet:
Is that true though sir because we have western nations working with Afghanistan, which is an overwhelmingly Muslim state, working now in Iraq and other Muslim states? Is it really fair to tarnish them all with the same brush?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Well there may be some who can understand people – we know of Christians who have helped Muslims but this doesn’t reflect the general rule.

Lyse Doucet:
And what about European nations – European leaders who call for a dialogue with the Islamic world, does that count for nothing?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
This again is an attitude of a select few. But generally – I’m talking generally – the attitude is that well these Muslims they are terrorists and you have to confront them.

Lyse Doucet:
But of course even those who want with the Islamic world, they do talk about the threat posed by those who would advocate violence – and you would agree with that. We had an e-mail from Arun Karna, New Delhi, India: How do you envision Malaysia’s role and relevance in the region in the light of emerging economies like China and India? Also what would be Malaysia’s role in the light of the emerging terrorist threat in the region?

You talked about closing down some of the religious schools, the madrassas, what more can Malaysia do?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
We don’t have that kind of serious problem but we admit that there are serious problems in the region. We have been able to manage our people quite well. We have differences between the Muslims in this country – we’re not united – there are lots of Muslims who tend to be extreme. But we try to arrest such tendencies early once we notice that they have been making use of schools to inculcate feelings which are contrary to the teachings of Islam. We had to put a stop to that. They can go to religious schools to learn about religion but they are not learning about religion they are learning about politics – the politics of hatred. So we had to put a stop to that before Islam is hijacked by them and made use of to perpetrate all kinds of violence.

Lyse Doucet:
It’s a difficult balance though isn’t it? How do you stop the more intolerant forms of Islam but how do you promote those which are part and parcel of your culture? And of course your main Islamic party, the pan-Malaysian Islamic party, says you don’t allow them to have freedom of expression, you don’t allow them to publish freely their newspapers. What about those who say to you, why don’t you have a more open debate on Islam in your country?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
We have an open debate with them. They publish their own papers and their papers.

Lyse Doucet:
But fortnightly not and only to their party members.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
No they have been distributed all over the country – it’s illegal but we have never taken action against them. And they meet – almost every night there will be any number of talks given by them all over the country. To say that we stop them is sheer nonsense and they are able to influence people with their campaign of hate.

Written by khairulorama

May 15, 2007 at 2:33 pm

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