Muslim states should enhance financial collaboration, Malaysia summit told

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KUALA LUMPUR: Muslim nations need to do more business among themselves, trade in each other’s currencies and keep up with non-Islamic countries to stop being left at their mercy, their leaders said on Thursday at a summit boycotted by Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said on Wednesday it was against the interests of the Muslim world to hold meetings outside the organisation, which has for decades acted as the collective Muslim voice.

Both Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan have been frustrated by the OIC’s hand-wringing and failure to take action in support of Muslim causes.

Mahathir said the Kuala Lumpur summit, which ends on Saturday, was aimed at understanding why Islam, Muslims and their countries were “in a state of crisis, helpless and unworthy of this great religion”.

“While we may not have been able to fully dissect all that had caused our pain and anguish, we are mostly in agreement that it is our inability to keep up with the progress and development of the non-Muslims that has left us in the lurch,” he said.

“Due to that, Muslims the world over suffer and because many are dependent on the mercy and charity of the non-Muslims. To my mind, we have no choice but to develop and progress as fast as possible.”

It was unclear to what extent the leaders would broach the major crises afflicting Muslims, ranging from the age-old disputes in the Middle East and occupied Kashmir to conflicts in Syria and Yemen, through to the plight of persecuted Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and millions of Uighur Muslims held in camps in China’s Xinjiang region.

A question from the audience on the treatment of Uighurs, put to the dais that included Mahathir, Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, was ignored.

Without mentioning the OIC by name, Erdogan said the biggest problem that platforms bringing the Islamic world together faced was a lack of implementation.

“If we still haven’t made any progress regarding the Palestinian cause, if we still can’t stop the exploitation of our resources, we still can’t say ‘stop’ to the fragmentation of the Muslim world over sectarianism, that’s why.”

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