World’s people must unite to address all extremism, Annan tells Islamic summit

16 October 2003

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today told a high-level meeting of Islamic leaders “We must unite our efforts to address the extremism that is, alas, on the rise, not only in Islam, but among many faiths.”

In remarks written for delivery to the summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Mr. Annan said, “There is in too many places a feeling of rising hostility between Islam and the West. This is ugly, dangerous and wrong.”

Mr. Annan was detained in New York “for very important discussions relating to Iraq, in which he is intimately involved,” a UN spokesman said. His remarks were delivered by Lakhdar Brahimi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.

“Violence has no place in any of the word’s great religions,” he said. “Therefore all governments must promote a continuing dialogue among civilizations – a dialogue based on the premise that diversity is a precious gift and not a threat, because diversity expresses the very wisdom of God.”

Mr. Annan’s message to the ministerial-level meeting of the 57-member body also pointed to a history of distinguished achievements in politics, scholarship, philosophy, theology, literature, architecture, art, astronomy, medicine, mathematics and other sciences.

“This rich history proves that there is nothing natural or inevitable about the sad state in which so much of the Islamic world finds itself today. The Muslim peoples are capable of much greater things – and they know it,” he said.

“I am not a Muslim. But, like you all, I am a child of Abraham. I believe in and worship the same almighty God that you do...I care deeply about the fate of the Muslim people. I wish to speak to you with great respect, but directly, and from the heart.”

He said that “Muslims are dismayed by the apparent inability of Islamic states to do much about problems” facing the Islamic world.

“But we know that only when Muslims enjoy their fundamental rights and freedoms, only when the Holy Quran is understood as enjoining education for all, and when the creative talents of so many Muslims, including women, is harnessed to develop the Muslim communities – only then will the Islamic world be able to assert its influence in shaping world events for the better,” Mr. Annan said.

“The Islamic world has been traumatized, particularly in recent years, by the suffering of Muslims in many places,” he said.

“Nowhere is that suffering more acute than in Palestine, where thousands have been killed. Muslims – and their Christian brothers and sisters too – suffer under a harsh and prolonged occupation, replete with collective punishment, the use of disproportionate military force, destruction of houses and crops, unjust expropriation and closures, illegal settlements and a fence being built on land that does not belong to the builders.

“However,” he said, “suicide bombings, in which hundreds of Israeli civilians have been indiscriminately killed, are not acceptable. These acts of terrorism, abhorred and rejected by all of you, defile and damage even the most legitimate cause. They must be condemned and must be stopped.”


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