IT IS TIME TO PAUSE AND RETHINK
by Mahathir bin Mohamad
The author is Prime Minister of Malaysia. This was part of his speech to the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum in Kuala Lumpur on Jan. 13, 2003.
Countries around the world are assailed by fears of terrorist attacks. People fear flying. We fear certain nations and religions. We fear cargo ships, imported goods, letters and parcels. In fact, we fear everything around us.
Because of these fears, we no longer invest in our own or foreign countries. The global economy, indeed the economy of every country, is regressing. The success of the terrorist attacks in 2001 on the United States is due much more to our wrong handling of the situation than to the extent of the damage done.
Israel should know by now that defense and security measures, and even out-terrorizing the terrorists, will not stop the suicide bombers. The world is far less thorough in its defense and security than Israel. it stands to reason that the global fight against terror by upgrading defense and security will be far less successful than the fight in Israel.
We may not want to admit it but the terrorists have a reason. We may think that their rationale does not warrant the kind of actions they are taking, but such thinking will not get us anywhere. We must look into what motivates them. If we acknowledge the causes of their acts of terror and try to remove them, then we may be able at least to reduce such acts.
Of course, there are many causes. Because we will not be able to attend to all of them, we cannot stop terrorism completely. But the principle reason for terrorism is territorial , not religious.
The Palestinians have had their land taken away, or been expelled and made refugees. Every time they try to regain their land, they lose more. Their struggle has been ignored by the world. Even the killing of noncombatants, including children, raised hardly an eyebrow. Unable to wage conventional war, some Palestinians resorted to acts of terror.
Although friendly Muslim states are unable to help the Palestinians, the people of these countries do not feel that they should be bound by the policies of their governments. So we find Muslims from other nations taking part in these acts of terror.
From among the more than a billion Muslims in the world, there must be several thousand who are willing to lose their lives in what they believe is a struggle for justice. We must acknowledge this fact if we are to succeed in curbing global terrorism. Yet not only is the world failing to remove the causes of terrorism, it is creating new ones. There was a time when Muslim countries agreed on the need to stop the aggressiveness of Iraq. Today, such unity has disappeared. Muslims see the stance taken against Iraq as another act of discrimination against Muslims. If Iraq is attacked, not only will it be a distraction in the fight against terrorism. It is also likely to increase the number of recruits to the ranks of terrorists. Iraq, Iran and North Korea have been labeled the “axis of evil”. North Korea has admitted it has nuclear capability, but it is not being threatened with war as Iraq is. We do not want to see North Korea threatened or attacked, but the accommodating attitude toward it, and not Iraq, will anger Muslims more.
North Korea has never been an easy country to deal with. But whether it joins the world community or not, it is still part of our global village. We have to learn how to get its cooperaion. Perhaps it can be nuclear-bombed out of existence. But that would be a confession of our failure.
Looking at Iraq, North Korea, Palestine and many other hot spots, we have failed to learn how to manage the world. We still think in terms of the capacity to kill as the determinant of our strength. We still think that might is right, that the strong must dominate and the weak must submit. Frankly, I do not think we have progressed much from the Stone Age. They used clubs but we have nuclear weapons.
Terror has become as globalized as trade and investments.
Labeling people as Satan or part of an axis of evil provokes; it does not resolve anything. Oppressing people or destroying their countries will not solve problems, either. We must reinvent our civilization. A globalized world needs to change its way of dealing with the problems that must arise with change.
We must accept that nothing happens in one part of the world without affecting the rest.
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in 2003