Current chairman of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told a conference on Thursday that Muslims must "take effective measures to deconstruct the intellectual and ideological foundations of religious extremism and sectarianism, for they do great damage to the cause of Islam and the welfare of Muslims".

Abdullah, the prime minister of Malaysia, also said many parts of the Islamic world were in "deep crisis", with Muslims suffering more from militancy and terrorism than others.

"There are many challenges that we need to overcome. In many parts of our world, we are in deep crisis," Abdullah told the meeting of the OIC Commission of Eminent Persons in Putrajaya, Malaysia's administrative capital.

He said uppermost in the commission's agenda must be the question of how to strengthen the prospects for peace, security and stability within Muslim countries, and between Muslim and non-Muslim nations.

Speak up

He added that believers were as much to blame as non-Muslims for misinterpretations of jihad, or holy struggle, which is often distorted as a religious justification for violence. 

"There are many challenges that we need to overcome. In many parts of our world, we are in deep crisis"

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi,
OIC chairman and Malaysian PM

He said it was unfortunate that some people had narrowed the concept of jihad to mean physical fighting and "even more unfortunate that this is the only meaning commonly understood by the general public".

"If Muslims themselves can make this mistake, what more can
we expect from others?" 

The Muslim world has not been very successful in engaging the Western media, he added. 

"We have not made our presence sufficiently felt or our
views sufficiently heard in the Western media." 

Addressing poverty

Since the 11 September 2001 attacks, Islam and Muslims have been portrayed by detractors as violent and intolerant, he said, adding: "Despite vigorous efforts taken to correct this ignorant and extremely damaging perception, we Muslims are still unable to break free from this profiling. 

"This profiling must stop. It does grave injustice to the overwhelming majority of Muslims who live in peace," the Malaysian leader said. 

"Indeed, Muslims suffer much more from militancy and terrorism than do others."

The Darfur crisis has killed 70,000
people and displaced 1.5 million

Abdullah also said: "Equally high in the commission's agenda, would be the question of how poverty and illiteracy in the Muslim world can be eradicated.

"The OIC landscape is a distressing one. Darfur is a humanitarian disaster, two of us are occupied, Iraq completely and Palestine partially.

"Some of the OIC countries are rich and their people affluent. But they are too few and far between. The OIC landscape is littered with nations that are poor and people that are hungry.

"They are largely at the mercy of developed nations and of
forces beyond their control," he lamented. 

The 57-nation OIC is the largest gathering that represents
the views of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims, but is largely
ignored by the West due to its scant means and lack of an
institutional framework for action. 

Nearly 50 scholars from Burkina Faso, Egypt, Iran, Indonesia,
Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan, Turkey, and Yemen are attending the three-day summit.

Its recommendations will be submitted at the OIC foreign ministers meeting in Sana'a, Yemen later this year.