Taking his anti-corruption message to the rest of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) countries in Kuala Lumpur, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said there were no quick-fixes to for the problem.
"I am deeply saddened to note that Muslim countries, as a group, do not rate very highly when it comes to perceptions of corruption," he said at the opening of the group's first forum on Monday, which is aimed at tackling the corruption associated with Muslim countries.
"I believe that many of the development challenges that the Muslim community faces have their roots in problems of poverty, poor governance and limited education opportunities."
Citing a report by Transparency International (TI), he said the Muslim country with the best record could rank only 29th out of 158 countries surveyed.
"More than half of the bottom 10 places were occupied by Muslim countries," he said. Chad was ranked as the most corrupt.
Badawi said: "The current condition that Muslim countries find themselves in is deeply alarming and distressing."
Matter of perception
The 57-member OIC comprises 1.8 billion people, ranging from wealthy Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to poor African states such as Chad and Sudan. The OIC main purpose is to encourage dialogue between Muslim countries.
TI, is headed by David Nussbaum, and he said that the perception of Muslim countries being among the most corrupt had nothing to do with Islam, and everything to do with income levels.
TI is a global network of 90 locally established national chapters which lobby governments to implement anti-corruption reforms.
The Berlin-based group also brings relevant players from government, civil society, business and the media to promote transparency in elections and public administration.
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the secretary-general of the OIC, said in a speech at the conference that the blame should also be placed on unethical multinational firms doing business in Muslim countries.