Muslims Almost Totally Dependent On Others,
By Umi Hani Sharani
Mahathir Urges Scholars to Resolve Muslim Differences "In that way I think we can be united, and of course unity is strength, and at the same time we can utilize the whole potential of the
Muslims, "Mahathir said. (Reuters).
KUALA LUMPUR, March 19, 2006 (IslamOnline.net &News Agencies) – Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad urged scholars on Sunday, March 19, to come together to resolve differences among Muslims, mobilize the Muslim world into a useful and united force and help commission a better image of Islam.
"Like everything else, when you read something, your understanding may be different from others," Mahathir told the official BERNAMA news agency.
"But if we go back to the basic or fundamental teachings of Islam, there is no difference because we believe in the same things that are enjoined in the Qur'an and verified hadith."
Mahathir, who headed a commission to come out with a report to look into how the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) could become a more dynamic entity to help Muslims and improve the image of Islam, maintained that Muslims would be able to reconcile between different sects if they go back to the basic Islamic teachings.
"Muslim scholars or ulama must discuss these issues rationally and in an in-depth manner to bring the Muslims back under one umbrella, under the religion that was brought to them by the Prophet.
"It is not going to be easy. The feelings are very strong," he said in conjunction with the completion of the 1440 Hijrah Vision Report commissioned by the IDB.
Mahathir, who ruled for 22 years until 2003, added that the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) would be a good avenue to render success to the efforts.
"Muslims should make more use of the OIC to iron out differences or for other pursuits which would benefit them."
The former Malaysian premier said Islam was currently going through what Christianity had gone through in the past.
"They have Protestants, Catholics, they have Orthodox... and the Catholics and Protestants have been known to fight it out in different small groups.
"In the past, they used to kill each other, they used to burn at the stakes because of differences of understanding and they tend to condemn others as heretics," Mahathir recalled.
"But today they are much more liberal. They don't question each other on the interpretation of the religion."
He said that the fragmentation among Muslims were due to different interpretation of Islam.
"Today we see Shiites blowing up Sunni mosques, Sunnis blowing up Shiite mosques, we see a lot of antagonism between the different sects and yet they all claim to be Muslims.
"If you claim to be a Muslim, then you should regard every Muslim as your brother (or sister). But they consider different sects as not being Islam."
Mahathir urged Muslims to return to the fundamental teachings of Islam and eliminate the differences in interpretation.
"In that way I think we can be united, and of course unity is strength, and at the same time we can utilize the whole potential of the Muslims."
Mahathir, Malaysia's longest-serving premier said the misinterpretation of Islam in certain countries made some people disallow women from joining the workforce.
"Some discussion on this ought to be done so that women would not be excluded while at the same time, the true teachings of Islam would be adhered to."
He said if women were not taken into account for economic purposes, then the number of Muslims would be halved since women usually make up about 50 percent of the population of any country.
"It has been shown that women have certain capabilities, maybe not physical (strength) but they have the mental capability, their skills in business are very good, we should tap them," said Mahathir.
Mahathir's firebrand daughter, Marina, has sparked a controversy after comparing the status of Malaysian women with the treatment of black South Africans under apartheid.
"In our country, there is an insidious growing form of apartheid among Malaysian women: that between Muslim and non-Muslim women," she wrote in her column in the local Star newspaper last Friday.
"As non-Muslim women catch up with women in the rest of the world, Muslim women here are only going backwards," she added.
Marina's outburst was sparked by recent amendments to Malaysia's Islamic family law that make it easier for Muslim men to take multiple wives, to divorce them and to take a share of their property.
Islamic laws in Malaysia are drafted by the government's Islamic Affairs advisers and apply to Muslims only, but they must be approved by state and federal legislatures before they come into force.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, an Islamic scholar who took over from Mahathir in 2003, later agreed to put the changes on hold, pending consultations with women's groups.
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