Islamic leaders unveil action plan to rescue a 'nation in crisis' - Guardian, UK
- Islamic leaders unveil action plan to rescue a 'nation
· Summit rails at 'deviant ideas' behind terrorism
· Saudis see deprivation as root cause of malaise
Brian Whitaker in Jeddah
Friday December 9, 2005
Leaders of more than 50 Islamic countries at a summit
in Mecca called by Saudi Arabia's ruler, King
Abdullah, adopted an ambitious plan to combat
extremism and poverty throughout the Muslim world
The summit was prompted by an admission that Muslim
societies had fallen into a deep malaise. "The Islamic
nation is in a crisis," the leaders said in a final
statement. "We need decisive action to fight deviant
ideas because they are the justification of terrorism.
There is a need to confront deviant ideology wherever
it appears, including in school curriculums. Islam is
the religion of diversity and tolerance."
The plan seeks to address what many see as the root
causes of terrorism by "aggressively" confronting
extremist rhetoric, including fatwas by unqualified
clerics, promoting dialogue with other religions and
fostering economic development in the poorer Muslim
Other aspects of the plan involve countering
Islamophobia and setting up an Islamic fund to provide
swift relief for natural disasters.
As a vehicle for this action plan, King Abdullah is
trying to breathe new life into the Organisation of
the Islamic Conference (OIC), under whose auspices the
summit was held. Founded in 1969, it is the world's
largest Muslim body, with 57 member states, but has
hitherto served mainly as a talking shop.
Though some observers remained sceptical yesterday,
Saudi officials said King Abdullah, in his religious
role as Custodian of the Two Holy Shrines, has decided
to give a moral lead. They also pointed out that high
oil prices had brought cash windfalls for Saudi Arabia
which the king intended to use to push the plan
There is also no doubt that many Muslim leaders have
been shaken by Islamist militancy. One Saudi working
paper at the summit, seen by the Guardian, conceded
that "an endemic problem currently exists in the
In what for the Saudis was extraordinarily frank
language, it continued: "A vast majority of Muslim
countries today face political, economic and social
underdevelopment that has evolved into a major crisis.
With the growing signs of displeasure and unrest from
those suffering under poor national governance across
the Muslim world, it is crucial for Muslim leaders to
find viable solutions to the problems they are
The document also lamented the inability of Muslims to
prevent the invasion of Iraq "or in the aftermath to
influence the peace" and said King Abdullah had been
"shocked by the inaction of Muslim governments" in
response to the recent Pakistani earthquake.
The average income in Muslim countries is $1,000
(£570) a year, a fifth of that for the rest of the
world, Malaysia's prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi, told the summit. In 19 of the OIC's member
countries, half of the adult population is illiterate.
Though many seemed ready to concede some
responsibility for these failures, Iran's president,
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, pointed a finger at "malicious
adversaries" victimising Muslim countries but called
on OIC member governments to build "trustful
relations" with their people.