"Muslim Countries Continue to be Dominated by Western Countries"


February 24, 1998


KUALA LUMPUR, Mon. - Although nominally free and independent, Muslim countries continue to be dominated by Western control over global finance, trading systems and the information technology.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said: "Instead of seeking solutions from within, we are pointing fingers at others."

Worse, he said, there were Muslim countries today which had so totally imbibed Western ways they deliberately and ruthlessly tried to root out any vestige of their Islamic past.

"Indeed, they bend backwards to accommodate secular ideologies in an attempt to identify totally with the West," he said when opening the International Conference on Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and the Asian Renaissance today.

Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838-1897) was a philosopher, social reformer and political activist. There is an ongoing debate on whether he is from Afghanistan or Persia (now Iran).

Anwar said Afghani was a great figure in Asia and the Islamic world, and had made major contributions to the political and cultural reawakening of Asia.

During his period, the Muslim world was in chains, politically subjugated and socially and economically in a state of decay. Angst-ridden Muslims blamed everyone but themselves for their condition.

The Muslim countries were dominated by Western imperial powers and accepted their condition as the will of God.

Afghani refused to accept the state of affairs prevailing then. Through his oratorical skills and his political agitation, he fashioned a movement that shook the mighty British empire to its roots.

Directly as a consequence of his actions, and his ability to galvanise mass support, he set in motion the anti-colonial forces that eventually freed Muslims and the rest of the Third World from the shackles of colonialism.

The conference is organised by the Institute for Policy Research (IKD) and is part of its efforts to deepen the understanding of the great contributions that Asia has given to world civilisations.

Anwar said the Muslim world was hemmed in by two extremes - the misguided extremists who use the mantle of religion to pursue their own unsavoury ends and the secularised elite who view religious tradition with contempt.

"Humanity must have faith in a unique divinity, which is the foundation of all ethics and morals. Secularism which is indifferent to the need for divine guidance, will result in injustice and the inevitable moral decay of society."

Anwar said those who embraced the secular ways of the West were in reality still the ideological and cultural serfs of the imperial powers, adding that they betrayed their heritage in the desperate desire to be accepted by the former colonial masters "little realising that the relationships can never be equal".

The way out lay in pursuing the course of moderation and tolerance in religion - and being prepared to learn and adapt to the ways of the world without denying their culture and identity, he added.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the economic problems in the region should serve as a wake-up call to those who continued to believe they could cut themselves off from the rest of the global community.