A World Leader’s Comments On The War On Terrorism
(We have decided to include these two articles from The Star newspaper in Malaysia as part of Islamic World’s position on the “war on terrorism” because they come from an influential world leader, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, Prime Minister of Malaysia, and they are very much in line with what we have been saying, and what we consider to be a reasonable and representative position from the Muslim perspective. These quotes are from a conference on terrorism organised by the Institute for Strategic and International Studies.) .
Target the Roots of Terror
By SA’ODAH ELIAS
KUALA LUMPUR: The best solution to the global terrorist problem is to remove the causes of terrorism, thus making the activity no longer tenable, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed said yesterday. The Prime Minister said once the causes were removed, terrorists would lose their power base as support for their actions would be much reduced, if not cease altogether. “This is the best approach because the process of identifying and hunting the terrorists will be very difficult and will take a long time. But we may not want to remove these causes because we do not like to give the impression that the terrorists have succeeded, but such an attitude will not help. The terrorists must be hunted and brought to justice, but the causes of their committing the acts of terror must also be removed. Even terrorists would not want to sacrifice their lives for nothing,” he said when opening a conference on terrorism organised by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies.
Dr. Mahathir also said, The world must be serious and not be selective in the fight against terrorists, as the cost of turning around the world’s economy thrown into recession because of terrorist attacks would be very high. If the whole world, including the Muslim world, was to participate in eliminating terrorism, all terrorists, irrespective of their race or religion, must be targeted and the cause of their anger and disaffection removed. If we have to determine who is a terrorist and who is not then we have to base it on the act and not on the person or the group or the race or the religion. And no one must be spared, whether their cause is right or not. They must include state terrorists as well, including the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon, the man responsible for the massacre of thousands of Palestinians in Shabra and Shatila and is still the man behind the systematic killing of the Palestinians today”.
Determining who were terrorists was important because people who some described as terrorists were regarded as noble freedom fighters by others. More confusing still, he said, there were many ambivalences in the definition of terrorist as some who were condemned as terrorists one day might be considered respectable leaders another day. “The Jewish Hagana, Irgun and Stern Gang were at one time regarded and hunted as terrorists, but later became respected leaders of Israel. Jomo Kenyatta and Robert Mugabe were considered terrorists and were condemned by the British but later became the acknowledged leaders of independent states. The Irish Republican Army is a terrorist organisation in the eyes of the British but is regarded as freedom fighters worthy of financial support by the Americans. With such differing views at different times, it is difficult to get the whole world to join in the fight against terrorism and if some countries provide shelter and protection for the terrorists because in their eyes these are not terrorists, it would be impossible to eliminate terrorism,” Dr Mahathir said.
Dr. Mahathir also said Muslims could not be faulted if they were under the impression that the current act against terror by the United States and its allies in Afghanistan was beginning to look more like a war against Muslims, especially with their talk of meting out the same punishment on Iraq. This impression, he said, could only be eliminated if similar actions were taken against those who terrorised the Muslims, like in Palestine, the Bosnians, Chechens and the people of Kosovo.
Dr. Mahathir reiterated that attacking Afghanistan was not going to result in the capture of the terrorists believed to be involved in the Sept 11 attack in New York and Washington, but instead might likely anger a lot of Muslims. “Their governments may not, though some are likely to be angered by the wanton acts against a brother Muslim country, but certainly from the vast number of Muslims. There would be quite a few who would join the ranks of terrorists to avenge what they see as gross injustice and cruelty. “So the bombing of Afghanistan, far from progressing the war to eliminate terrorists, would actually result in the spawning of more terrorists, saddling the world with the problem forever,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia was familiar with terrorism and the war against terrorists, having to face the problem for 42 years between 1948 and 1990, but in the end the terrorists were defeated by the government campaign to win the hearts and minds of the people so as to cut off their civilian support. “We studied the causes of their disaffection and that of their supporters and we took remedial actions. Our decision to accord citizenship rights to over a million non-Malays then was not a victory for the struggle of the terrorists, but was a means to win the loyalty of the disaffected people and to get them to co-operate in the war against the terrorists,” he said.
Speaking to reporters later, Dr Mahathir said he had already written to President George W. Bush urging the United States to halt the bombing in Afghanistan and expressing the hope that the war in that country would end soon. “I am talking of a stop to the bombing because of the damage it can do to the innocent civilians. The use of ground forces is better because the damage is more contained,” he added.
Palestinian Issue the Cause of Muslim Anger
KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir said yesterday that Israel is a terrorist state and that the issue of Palestine is the principle cause of anger and frustration among Muslims, some of whom had resorted to terrorism. To resolve the issue, he said, the first step must be to accord recognition to Palestine as a state and for the United Nations peacekeeping force to forcibly separate the two. However, he said that while the Palestinians were willing to have the UN peacekeeping force, the Israelis objected to it and the world pandered to the wishes of the Israelis, resulting in more killings and terrorism. “It all started because the Israelis came and occupied lands which are not theirs by right. Their only claim is based on a 2,000-year-old history, and if that is the basis of their claim, then even Malaysia can make similar claims on some countries,” he said after opening a conference on terrorism.
In his opening speech, he said there was a great deal of anger in the Muslim world over this issue which the West could never understand. Because the Muslim world was weak and unable to be of any help to the Palestinians, he said, they viewed the unwillingness of the West to stop the Israelis as a sign that the West was anti-Palestine, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim. He said while most Muslims would only feel anger, there were some among the one billion Muslims whose anger could not be contained, and had resorted to terror tactics. “It is reasonable to believe if there is no Palestinian issue, if the Palestinians are not being oppressed and children killed, the anger of the Arabs and Muslims would not be there or would be much less. Certainly there would not be those who would be willing to kill themselves in the horrible manner as in the attack of Sept 11,” he added.
He said in Palestine civilians including children were being shot and killed every day and in retaliation the Palestinians killed Israelis. “Everyday Palestinians face the possibility of being killed. Can it be said that they do not live in terror of being the next victim? The Israelis too are in that position but they have superior firepower and obviously they instill more terror in the hearts of the Palestinians,” he said. “In frustration, he said, Palestinians, including children, resorted to throwing stones, but the Israelis retaliated with live bullets and yet the Palestinians were described as terrorists and their peace overtures rejected”.
“We must not glorify these terrorists but we need to understand their minds and their mentality. We need to do this if we want to understand the reason why they did this. If we don’t then we will not be able to remove the causes and reduce the incidence of terrorism,” he said.