Mahathir's Speech: An Analysis
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.