Dr. Mahathir's Speech: An Analysis
By Mohammad Asghar

In an article published by News From Bangladesh in its issue of October 24, 2004 under the title of "All the hullabaloo about Mahathir's Speech," Dr. Habib Siddiqui wrote:

"I have read Doctor Mahathir's entire speech a couple of times and failed to find signs of anti-Semitism. It is wrong to accuse him of anti-Semitism by quoting a sentence or two out of context from his very long speech."

Despite the fact that I have been recuperating from a recent surgery, I could not check myself from writing this rejoinder to put the issues Dr. Habib discussed to their right perspectives. In my effort to do so, I will rely on the official version of Dr. Mahathir's speech, which he delivered at the OIC Conference held on 16th October, 2003 in Malaysia.

Dr. Mahathir began his speech with the following words:  "Alhamdulillah, All Praise be to Allah, by whose Grace and Blessings we, the leaders of the Organisation of Islamic Conference countries are gathered here today to confer and hopefully to plot a course for the future of Islam and the Muslim ummah worldwide."

The following is clear from Dr. Mahathir's statement: 57 Kings, Sheikhs, Presidents and Prime Ministers came together on October 16, 2003 to "confer and hopefully to plot a course for the future of Islam and the Muslim ummah worldwide."

Except for plotting a course for the future of Islam and the Muslim Ummah, there was no other agenda for the leaders of 57 countries to discuss, and to agree upon, in a highly important conference that was held in a Muslim State two years after the carnage of September 11, 2001.

Dr. Mahathir stated: "The whole world is looking at us. Certainly 1.3 billion Muslims, one-sixth of the world's population are placing their hopes in us, in this meeting, even though they may be cynical about our will and capacity to even decide to restore the honour of Islam and the Muslims, much less to free their brothers and sisters from the oppression and humiliation from which they suffer today."

The Malaysian Prime Minister acknowledged the fact that 1.3 billion Muslims are "cynical about their leaders' will and capacity to even decide to restore the honor of Islam and the Muslims, much less to free their brothers and sisters from the oppression and humiliation from which they suffer today."

The above observation gives birth to a couple of questions: (1). Are the 1.3 billion Muslims wrong in being cynical about their leaders' will and capacity? (2). How long did it take for the Muslims to develop in them the cynical perceptions of their leaders?

The newly resurrected Muslim leader observed: "I will not enumerate the instances of our humiliation and oppression, nor will I once again condemn our detractors and oppressors. It would be an exercise in futility because they are not going to change their attitudes just because we condemn them. If we are to recover our dignity and that of Islam, our religion, it is we who must decide, it is we who must act."

According to historians, Muslims lost their empire in 1683 A.D., and, as Dr. Mahathir inferred, they became subject of humiliation and oppression following their near disappearance from the world's political, military and economic scenes. 

Believing that what Dr. Mahathir has asserted is true, I feel inclined to ask: Why Muslims leaders took almost 320 years to realize the plight of their Muslim brothers and sisters?

Dr. Mahathir exhorted: "To begin with, the Governments of all the Muslim countries can close ranks and have a common stand if not on all issues, at least on some major ones, such as on Palestine. We are all Muslims. We are all oppressed. We are all being humiliated. But we who have been raised by Allah above our fellow Muslims to rule our countries have never really tried to act in concert in order to exhibit at our level the brotherhood and unity that Islam enjoins upon us."

Dr. Mahathir is a Muslim and he has been ruling Malaysia for almost 22 years. During his long reign, he must have attended a number of OIC Conferences. Since all Muslims, according to him, are being oppressed and humiliated for a long time, his inability to raise this very important issue so forcefully in one of the organization's past conferences is a question that should confuse all those minds, which are able to think logically.

Dr. Mahathir bemoaned: "But not only are our Governments divided, the Muslim ummah is also divided, and divided again and again. Over the last 1400 years the interpreters of Islam, the learned ones, the ulamas have interpreted and reinterpreted the single Islamic religion brought by Prophet Muhammad S.A.W, so differently that now we have a thousand religions which are often so much at odds with one another that we often fight and kill each other."

His lamentation continued: "From being a single ummah we have allowed ourselves to be divided into numerous sects, mazhabs and tarikats, each more concerned with claiming to be the true Islam than our oneness as the Islamic ummah."

Dr. Mahathir has rightly pointed out the true situation that pervades the Islamic world. But, regrettably, he has not mentioned the causes, which are responsible for the creation of the situation. For the sake of our understanding, I humbly ask Dr. Mahathir or any other Muslim leader or Ulema of his caliber to answer the following questions:

1. Who are the culprits behind the division of the Islamic governments and the Muslim Umma?
2. What caused the Muslim Ulemas to "interpret and reinterpret a single religion" for over 1,400 years? 
3. When God took extraordinary measures to protect the Quran from being corrupted or interpolated by humans, why did he not take similar measures to prevent its repeated interpretations by the "learned" Ulemas of Islam?
4. Why the Quran needs to be interpreted? Did God lack in vocabulary that prevented him from being explicit in his statements? How can one interpret God's words or messages without himself becoming a God, or without having the ability to think on God's level?  
5. Can we have anyone describe for us the essence of "true Islam" as well as the names of a few people who are practicing it truly and faithfully?

Dr. Mahathir, the new messiah of Islam claimed: "We fail to notice that our detractors and enemies do not care whether we are true Muslims or not. To them we are all Muslims, followers of a religion and a Prophet whom they declare promotes terrorism, and we are all their sworn enemies. They will attack and kill us, invade our lands, bring down our Governments whether we are Sunnis or Syiahs, Alawait or Druze or whatever. And we aid and abet them by attacking and weakening each other, and sometimes by doing their bidding, acting as their proxies to attack fellow Muslims. We try to bring down our Governments through violence, succeeding to weaken and impoverish our countries."

In my understanding, no Non-Muslim country "attacked and killed Muslims," or invaded and grabbed their land after the conclusion of the World War II. The three wars that India fought with Pakistan (over the disputed land of Kashmir and the independence of Bangladesh) and the American invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq are two different stories with two different historical contexts.

Anyone who supported Talibanism as well as international terrorism will have enough reasons to condemn America's attack on Afghanistan, but what undisputable ground such a person would have to condemn America for temporarily occupying Iraq?

It was the Muslim State of Iraq, which had attacked and fought an almost decade-long war with Iran. In this brutal war, Muslims killed, maimed or incapacitated millions of their own brothers and sisters.

It was the Muslim State of Iraq, which had invaded and occupied Kuwait, another Muslim State. Today, America is in Iraq because of the reason that the latter had refused to cease its occupation of Iraq and also due to other reasons that came to the fore after the Gulf War of 1991.

Having always preferred peace to violence in my own life, I never liked war; no matter how many solid reasons one might have had in his dossiers to justify its initiation. Still believing that no war has ever solved our problems, I supported our government's move against Saddam Hussain. If we had failed to remove him from power, he would have become a monster and threatened the independence of all of his neighbors in a short period of time.

Almost all the countries of the world, including almost all the Muslim nations, held identical opinion of Saddam Hussain. While many among them supported our war with Iraq, others questioned the timing our leadership had thought to be right to remove him from power. As an individual, I had not agreed to the timing, but as an American citizen, I supported our armed forces for the mission they were ordered to accomplish in Iraq. Today, they are in Iraq because with out being there, they could not have removed Saddam Hussain from power. But can our armed forces' presence in Iraq for about eight months be equated with its occupation as well as with the killing of the Muslims, especially in a situation where the erstwhile dictator of Iraq still remains at large?

In our war with Iraq, our coalition partners and we have lost 170 soldiers. The Iraqis lost 2,320 of their men. Though the loss of a single human life in any hostility is deeply regrettable, yet one can draw satisfaction from the fact that 170 of our men shed their blood to ensure the safety of a large number of Muslims, while 2,320 Muslims gave their lives to protect a dictator who not only killed innumerable number of his own people, he was also preparing himself to trample the freedom of all the other Muslim nations of the Middle East.

Dr. Mahathir has admitted that Muslims not only kill themselves, they also bring down their governments through violence, thus succeeding to weaken and impoverish the Muslim countries. Appreciating his candidness, I need to ask him:

1. Does he know how many Shiite Muslims of Pakistan have so far died in the hands of the Sunni Muslims or vice-a-versa?
2. Is he willing to identify the enemies of Islam who influenced the Muslims to kill other Muslims?
3. Does he know that the number of Shiites killed in Pakistan exceeds the number of the Iraqis killed by the Allied forces in order to remove the pariah of the Arab World?
4. Why did he not ever condemn his Sunni brothers for killing the Shiite Muslims in Pakistan?
5. Can he explain why Muslims are forced to remove their governments through violence?
6. Will he hold ordinary Libyans responsible for removing Gaddafi from power through force, and if their action would further impoverish their country?

Dr. Mahathir, the scholar of Islam, asserted: "But this is not all that we ignore about the teachings of Islam. We are enjoined to Read, Iqraq i.e. to acquire knowledge. The early Muslims took this to mean translating and studying the works of the Greeks and other scholars before Islam. And these Muslim scholars added to the body of knowledge through their own studies."

The Arabic word for reading is "iqraa." Verse 96:1 of the Quran begins with this word. English rendering of the verse reads: "Read (or proclaim) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, who created-

The word "igraa" was used in the verse with a specific purpose: Angel Gabriel wanted Muhammad to read what God had wanted him to read in the cave of Hira. This word was not used in the sense Dr. Mahathir has understood it to represent. How could God have asked Muslims to acquire knowledge when he wants all of them to "believe in the Unseen"? (Quran; 2:3).

Has one blind man ever been able to lead another blind to his destination?

Dr. Mahathir has mentioned an interesting matter in his observation, and it is true. Prior to the invention of Islam, the Pagans, Jews and the Christian Greeks and other scholars had studied many subjects and committed their findings to writing. Muslims, during their heydays, studied them and added their own thoughts to the already-existing corpus they had the opportunity to lay their hands on. In other words, what Muslims had learned in those bygone days were not from the Quran or from other so-called Islamic sources, rather the literary or philosophical achievements they pride themselves in today came to them from a body of knowledge that the infidels and the non-believers had collected long time before the birth of Islam.

Dr. Mahathir stressed: "The early Muslims produced great mathematicians and scientists, scholars, physicians and astronomers etc. and they excelled in all the fields of knowledge of their times, besides studying and practising their own religion of Islam. As a result the Muslims were able to develop and extract wealth from their lands and through their world trade, able to strengthen their defences, protect their people and give them the Islamic way of life, Addin, as prescribed by Islam."

When Muslims were able, in Dr. Mahathir's words, to "produce great mathematicians and scientists, scholars, physicians and astronomers etc. and they excelled in all the fields of knowledge of their times," in the past, what has stopped them from producing them in our modern times? Is their inertia due to their exploitation by the Hindus, Jews and the Christians? Had not the Jews pursued their intellectual inclinations while still living under the yoke of Germany's Hitler? What have the Muslims extracted from their lands? Do the gas and oil explorers and the mining industries owe their gratitude to the Muslim scientists? Are our present medical sciences and the explorations of the outer space dependent on the findings of the Muslim physicians and astronomers of the bygone days?

When Muslims were "able to strengthen their defense, protect their people and give them the Islamic way of life," what had caused them to lose their empire to their enemies? Was their enemies' refusal to cave in to their crude and inhuman rule responsible for their downfall?

Dr. Mahathir boasted: "The Europeans had to kneel at the feet of Muslim scholars in order to access their own scholastic heritage."

I applaud Dr. Mahathir for his honest confession. There was a time in Muslim history when they could access and study the Non-Muslims' works without any difficulty. But when Muslims became powerful and the ruler of the Non-Muslims, the latter had to "kneel at the feet of Muslim scholars in order to access their (Non-Muslims') own scholastic heritage."

Does it not tell us how Muslims treated their subjects in the days they ruled over them?

Were Muslims fair in their dealings with the Non-Muslims? Should not the Non-Muslims have removed a painful and cancerous pustule from their bodies?

Dr. Mahathir recalled: "But halfway through the building of the great Islamic civilisation came new interpreters of Islam who taught that acquisition of knowledge by Muslims meant only the study of Islamic theology. The study of science, medicine etc. was discouraged."

Were the Jews and Christians responsible for the creation of the new Muslim interpreters? Did the Jews and the Christians conspire with the Muslim interpreters and asked them to tell the Muslims to neglect science, medicine etc., but to concentrate only on the Islamic theology?

Dr. Mahathir recalled: "The early successes of the Ottomans were not accompanied by an intellectual renaissance. Instead they became more and more preoccupied with minor issues such as whether tight trousers and peak caps were Islamic, whether printing machines should be allowed or electricity used to light mosques. The Industrial Revolution was totally missed by the Muslims.

I am glad Dr. Mahathir had the courage to find the fault of his ancestors. But is the shedding of crocodile's tears over the past deeds of his ancestors going to compensate for what Muslims have been missing from the Industrial Revolution? Are the Jews and the Christians responsible for this as well?

Dr. Mahathir pointed out: "Apart from the new nation-states we also accepted the western democratic system. This also divided us because of the political parties and groups that we form, some of which claim Islam for themselves, reject the Islam of other parties and refuse to accept the results of the practice of democracy if they fail to gain power for themselves. They resort to violence, thus destabilising and weakening Muslim countries."

Are the above attitudes among the Muslims also due to Jewish manipulations? If not, can anyone explain why Muslims conduct themselves in the above manners?

Dr. Mahathir agonized: "The Europeans could do what they liked with Muslim territories. It is not surprising that they should excise Muslim land to create the state of Israel to solve their Jewish problem. Divided, the Muslims could do nothing effective to stop the Balfour and Zionist transgression."

Before the Muslims took over Palestine, it belonged to the Jews. They had been living there from time immemorial. The Europeans and the Americans helped them to return to their own land and to establish a State of their own. Recovering one's own lost possessions from a usurper has never been a crime, it would never be. Therefore, to accuse the Europeans with excising the Muslim land to create the state of Israel is nothing but an effort on Dr. Mahathir's part to white wash the acts and deeds of the Arabian Muslims. I strongly condemn the Malaysian Prime Minister for distorting historical facts.

Dr. Mahathir stated rather sarcastically: "Some would have us believe that, despite all these, our life is better than that of our detractors. Some believe that poverty is Islamic, sufferings and being oppressed are Islamic. This world is not for us. Ours are the joys of heaven in the afterlife. All that we have to do is to perform certain rituals, wear certain garments and put up a certain appearance. Our weakness, our backwardness and our inability to help our brothers and sisters who are being oppressed are part of the Will of Allah, the sufferings that we must endure before enjoying heaven in the hereafter. We must accept this fate that befalls us. We need not do anything. We can do nothing against the Will of Allah."

Why some? Don't almost all Muslims believe in what Dr. Mahathir has stated above? Don't most Muslims draw the above conclusions from the contents of the Quran? Is believing in the Quran a wrong practice? If it is so, then why the learned Muslim leader has not proposed abandonment of the Quran?

Dr. Mahathir has pointed out: "Allah has said in Surah Ar-Ra'd verse 11 that He will not change the fate of a community until the community has tried to change its fate itself."

God has also said that no human being can do anything without his permission. To emphasize the extent of his control over the acts and deeds of the humans, he asserted that "not a leaf doth fall but with his knowledge" (Quran; 6:59). When God is so pervasive over the acts and deeds of mankind, how can a community of them change their fate without being wanted by him? How can humans defy God's enormous power?

Dr. Mahathir boasted: We are now 1.3 billion strong. We have the biggest oil reserve in the world. We have great wealth. We are not as ignorant as the Jahilliah who embraced Islam. We are familiar with the workings of the world's economy and finances. We control 57 out of the 180 countries in the world. Our votes can make or break international organisations.

It is true that Muslims have the biggest oil reserve and also that they have great wealth. But despite this fact, a vast majority of the Muslim Umma lives under extreme poverty. Despite the immense wealth that the Muslims possess, many Muslim nations cannot survive without the help of infidel Christians. Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and Bangladesh are but a few Muslim countries, which prepare their annual budgets on the basis of commitments of help they always look forward to receiving from the donors of the Christian West.

If what I stated above is true, then I should ask Dr. Mahathir: (1). Who are those Muslims who own the biggest reserve of oil and great wealth? (2). Is not Umma supposed to represent all the Muslims of the world? (3). Are not all Muslims supposed to have a share in the oil reserve and the wealth it creates? (4). Why has not Dr. Mahathir proposed that the rich Muslim States share their wealth with their poor brethren?

Dr. Mahathir preached: "We are enjoined by our religion to prepare for the defence of the ummah. Unfortunately we stress not defence but the weapons of the time of the Prophet. Those weapons and horses cannot help to defend us any more. We need guns and rockets, bombs and warplanes, tanks and warships for our defence. But because we discouraged the learning of science and mathematics etc. as giving no merit for the akhirat, today we have no capacity to produce our own weapons for our defence. We have to buy our weapons from our detractors and enemies."                 

Does not providing economic safeguards to a nation help it develop its own defense? If yes, why the learned Muslim preacher has not asked the wealthy participants of the Conference to let their poor brothers share just a portion of what they possess? Why has he not proposed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia allocate a portion of the revenues it receives from the Hajjis for alleviating the sufferings of the poor Muslims? If Dr. Mahathir has the good of Umma in his heart, can he explain why his country imprisons and then deports those poor Muslim workers who come to his country to earn a living for them and for their families?

Dr. Mahathir thundered: "We are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them."

To understand the implication of the above statement, one needs to pay careful attention to the tone of the language and the context in which Dr. Mahathir has used it.

He clearly implied that though the Europeans had killed six millions of the Jews, yet the surviving six million of them have the ability to rule the world by proxy. He, therefore, implied that since Muslims are in a large number and are, therefore, very strong, they should eliminate the remaining Jews so that humanity can be saved from their manipulative actions.

The above was the part of Dr. Mahathir's speech that has shaken the mind and conscience of almost all the world's Non-Muslim leaders and their people. Many of them, including George Bush of America, protested; others simply elected to keep mum for the time being. They might respond in kind to his provocative exhortations in due course of time.

There are many other issues in Dr. Mahathir's 59-point speech, on which I had the intention to comment. But as my write up has already become long, I wish to end my rejoinder to his speech with the following questions:

Since Dr. Mahathir is going to relinquish the charge of his office at the end of this month, what has prompted him to blast the Jews, given the fact that he would not be there to face the reaction of the world towards his nation?

Does the Muslim world need an enemy when it already has one in Dr. Mahathir?


Mohammad Asghar writes from USA. 

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