KUALA LUMPUR: Self-reliance among Muslim nations remains crucial as there is no sovereign state impervious to international sanctions.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that if Muslim nations cooperated, especially on ensuring mutual economic wellbeing, it could help tide over external challenges.
He said in the future, unilateral sanctions or boycotts currently imposed on Muslim countries such as Iran and Qatar may not be confined to these two states.
“Such sanctions and embargoes are not going to be exclusively for Iran and Qatar. With the world witnessing nations making unilateral decisions to impose such punitive measures, Malaysia and other nations must always bear in mind that it can be imposed on any of us.
“It is all the more reason for us to be self-reliant and work towards that with other Muslims nations to ensure that if and when such measures are imposed upon us, we are capable of facing it,” Dr Mahathir said in his closing remarks at the 5th Kuala Lumpur Summit (KL Summit) 2019 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
More than 400 delegates from 56 Muslim countries attended the three-day summit themed “The Role of Development in Achieving National Sovereignty”.
Dr Mahathir said that the summit managed to gather the heads of state and government of Iran, Qatar, Turkey and Malaysia, who together with other leaders present, had agreed that the brotherhood shown by the participating nations should be further enhanced.
“It was pointed out that if Muslim countries are independent and capable of standing on their own feet, we will not be subjected to such treatments.
“Nevertheless, leaders of all four countries were especially heartened by the brotherly and friendly relations that have strengthened despite the complexities of the region.
“These, to us, are the very essence that will ensure the foundation that we want to build will be successful.”
When elaborating on what was highlighted during the summit, Dr Mahathir, who is the KL Summit chairman, said much of the current achievements of the Muslim world were also revealed by delegates during the event.
It includes the successes of Muslim nations to overcome adversity amidst external pressures from a world superpower and boycotts from their regional neighbours.
He pointed out that there was a silver lining in the sanctions that were imposed by the United States on Iran and the boycott by certain Gulf nations imposed on Qatar.
He said as what was related by their respective heads of state, who had attended the summit, Iran and Qatar were able to rise above the challenges before them and become self-sufficient with notable achievements in several fields.
“It is important for me to point out that Iran in particular, despite the years of sanctions, had been able to continue to progress and develop. It proudly stands as a nation with the fourth-highest number of engineers in the world.
“Qatar, too, has been subject to the embargo and like Iran, it has managed to rise above it and progressed impressively.”
He said when it comes to measures that could boost the economic standing of Muslim nations, a proposal highlighted by delegates to set up a common currency and consider new types of trade must be looked into.
“I have suggested that we re-visit the idea of trading using the gold dinar and barter trade among us. We are seriously looking into this and we hope that we will be able to find a mechanism to put it into effect.”
He said the purpose of the summit was for the participating nations to assess their strengths, weaknesses and their assets to benefit one another.
In this regard, Dr Mahathir said the more prosperous and stable Muslim nations needed to help weaker Muslim nations to get back on their feet, citing the possible economic or human capital collaborations.
“Simply put, if one of us has expertise in a particular area, we offer it to another or all the other participating countries and establish a realistic collaboration.”
He said he was extremely proud that after three days, the summit had witnessed 18 successful exchange of instruments in various fields including advanced hi-technology; media collaboration; the centre of excellence; food security and youth leadership and exchange programmes.
“There are several more in the pipeline which is being worked out resulting from discussions during this Summit. These are tangible outcomes from the Summit as to how we had envisaged when we embarked on this programme.”
He said the summit’s focus was mainly on the economy, science and technology as well as the defence industry.
“But the most important aspect of all the focus is the need to be able to produce and create new indigenous technologies.
“For as long as we are dependent on the technology created by the enemies of Islam, they will forever be able to circumvent, dictate and control our efforts to improve our technologies and defence system in particular.”
Dr Mahathir said many Muslim leaders expressed the need to have a more proportionate Muslim representation in all fields globally because the 1.8 billion Muslim population worldwide represented almost a quarter of the total world population.
He said that leaders at the summit had described the disproportionate representation of Muslims in the fields of science, technology and humanities as something “pitiful”.
He also addressed the criticism which had been levelled against the KL Summit ahead of its opening and said that some people may have misunderstood the purpose of the event.
“Admittedly, some had misunderstood our intentions, intentionally or otherwise, some had felt slighted while a few were suspicious. By now, I am sure it is obvious that the negative opinions were misplaced and not justified.
“We are not here to replace any other Muslim platforms, neither are we intending to create different categories or classes of Muslim nations nor to undermine others.
“It is a congregation of a few Muslim nations of which some of the leaders wanted to get together and discuss some areas that are possible for us to establish collaborations that will first benefit the nations involved and then taken onto a bigger platform and collaboration to benefit the Muslim world as a whole.”
He believed that while he may not be able to allay the suspicions and opposition raised against the summit, he was elated that the participants remained steadfast in using the platform to focus on seven pillars of discussion - development and sovereignty; integrity and good governance; culture and identity; justice and freedom; peace, security and defence; trade and investment; and technology and internet governance.
Despite the summit being apolitical and non-religious, Dr Mahathir said that such issues could not be avoided during the event as certain communities were now faced with persecution due to their religion or ethnicity.
“There is also concern that Muslims in non-Muslim countries are forced to undergo assimilation. We support integration, but assimilation to the extent of shedding our religion is unacceptable.”
Dr Mahathir also urged Muslims to acquire knowledge as it was the only hope in preventing them from continuously being bullied and mistreated by their enemies.
“We hope from this point onwards, our other Muslim brethren will see for themselves that what we intend to do is to unite the ummah on strategic and advanced technologies.”
Published in: The New Straits Times, Saturday 21 December 2019