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Mahathir: Malaysia is 'fundamentalist state'

Mahathir (left) says he is trying to explain misconceptions of Islam to Western leaders
Mahathir (left) says he is trying to explain misconceptions of Islam to Western leaders  

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says his country is an Islamic fundamentalist state and can be proud of the fact.

According to a report from the state news agency Bernama, Mahathir, who is known for his often outspoken comments, said Malaysia had incorrectly become known as a moderate Muslim state.

In fact, he said, the Malaysian government's policies abide with the fundamental teachings of Islam.

He acknowledged his views would shock many in the West "because they considered a fundamentalist as someone who is violent and did all kinds of bad things."

But he said such a perception was wrong, and it was not necessarily a bad thing to be a fundamentalist.

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"If we hold to the fundamentals of Islam, we will not become bad as Islam exhorts us to be on good brotherly terms, united, do good things and hence it is not wrong to be an Islamic fundamentalist," Bernama quoted him as saying.

Mahathir made his comments Monday on the eve of a five-day annual general meeting of his dominant United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) party -- the leading party in the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition.

Speaking to lawmakers in the Malaysian parliament, Mahathir said Malaysia was not only an Islamic state, but a model Islamic state.

He said that when he had explained his position to non-Muslims in the West many had agreed their perception and use of the word "fundamentalist" had been incorrect.

Mahathir's growing espousal of his Islamic beliefs has been seen by some observers as an effort to counter the rise of the ultra-conservative Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) which is winning support from a growing number of Muslim Malays.

PAS says Mahathir's views on what constitute an Islamic state and Islamic values are far from ideal.

During his speech to parliament, Mahathir referred to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, criticizing the West for what he said was its unfair approach to the crisis.

"If Israel is doing wrong they should say it is wrong and if the Palestinians are doing bad things, it should be said so. We should consider the matter in all fairness," he was quoted as saying.

Malays, who make up 60 percent of Malaysia's population, are almost all Muslim
Malays, who make up 60 percent of Malaysia's population, are almost all Muslim  

"If we do that and if we eliminate the causes for Muslims to resort to terror, God willing, even if terrorism cannot be wiped out altogether, at least it can be reduced," Mahathir said, adding: "We should remember that non-Muslims are also terrorizing."

Responding to a question from a Malay lawmaker, he said that during his visit to the U.S. last month he endeavored to correct widespread misconceptions about Islam and explain some of the reasons that bred terrorism.

Terrorism existed in the Middle East he said because Palestinian land had been seized and because of what he said was illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.


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