Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

Islam, Terrorism and Malaysia's Response

Remarks by The Honorable Dato Seri Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia

New York
February 4, 2002

I have been asked to speak on Islam, terrorism and Malaysia's response. In the first place, I must insist that terrorism is not an Islamic monopoly. In Malaysia, for 42 long years we fought Communist guerillas which employed terror tactics in Malaysia to force the acceptance of the ideology. We defeated it.

We defeated it not just through military action but more by winning the hearts and minds of the people who supported them. Since the terrorists were ethnic Chinese, we identified the causes for their disaffection and remedied them. The result was a swing in favour of the Government and we eventually put an end to Malaysian terrorism.

One can say the same of terrorists anywhere including those who are Muslim by religion. Islam does not promote terrorism. Islam is a religion of peace. But when Muslims feel they are being oppressed, they are not getting a fair deal, then Muslims react very much like the ethnic Chinese in Malaysia reacted.

While we must condemn their acts of terror we must strive to understand the reasons for their anger and their reactions, irrational though they may be. We have to understand if we are going to tackle the problem.

The terrorists of today are not wild-eyed, illiterate fanatics who merely obey the orders of their evil leaders. They are educated, well-off, normal people with wives and families to love and look after. We cannot know they are terrorists until they have committed their horrible crimes. Their known leaders and their group may be eliminated but until the causes are removed there is no guarantee new groups will form to commit acts of terror.

And so while we fight against the known or suspected terrorists we must eliminate the causes.

Why is it that of late acts of terror seem to be more frequently committed by the followers of Islam, the Muslims? In the first place, only Muslim terrorists are linked to their religion. No one ever mentions the religions of the terrorists of Northern Ireland, of Sri Lanka, of Japan, of Germany and of many other countries or people. But if they are Muslims, they are always called Muslim terrorists. When Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina were being slaughtered by the Serbs, there was no mention of Christian Orthodox terrorists. These Christian Orthodox terrorists killed far more people than were killed on September 11. The world did not mobilise to fight Christian Orthodox terrorists even when they terrorised the Kosovars.

Secondly, many Muslims are involved in acts of terror simply because presently Muslims and the Islamic countries are being oppressed most. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Palestine, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Iran, India and Chechnya, it is the Muslims who are the injured parties. In fact their terrorism is their reaction to what is to them acts of terror against them. But we are given the impression that Muslims are natural terrorists, that Islam advocates irrational acts of terror. But Islam is against the killing of innocent people, which is, in the final analysis, what terrorism is about.