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Malaysia apologises for Mahathir's 'Jews rule world' remark

October 17, 2003 - 3:24PM

Faced with furious criticism from around the world over Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's assertion that Jews rule the world, Malaysia apologised today for any misunderstanding and claimed that no offence was intended.

Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar struggled to contain the damage wrought by his blunt-spoken boss, who told a summit of Islamic leaders yesterday that "Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them."

Repeated assertions of Jewish dominance dotted the speech to buttress Mahathir's analysis that Muslims needed to embrace modern knowledge and technology and overcome divisions over religious dogma that have left them weakened on the world stage.

"I'm sorry that they have misunderstood the whole thing," Syed Hamid told The Associated Press. "The intention is not to create controversy. His intention is to show that if you ponder and sit down to think, you can be very powerful."

Syed Hamid said the world's Muslims were in a "quagmire" and feeling "sidelined or marginalised". The perception is widespread in the Islamic world since the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and increased Israeli repression of the Palestinians.

"The ones who are facing all the problems at present are the Muslims," Syed Hamid said. "There are no feelings against any Jews. Why should we have feelings based on ethnicity?"

Yesterday, Mahathir said Muslims had achieved "nothing" in more than 50 years of fighting Israel.

"They survived 2,000 years of pogroms not by hitting back but by thinking," Mahathir said of the Jews. "They invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so that they can enjoy equal rights with others."

Mahathir said the world's 1.3 billion Muslims "cannot be defeated by a few million Jews," but suggested the use of political and economic tactics instead of violence to achieve a "final victory."

"In today's world, we wield a lot of political, economic and financial clout, enough to make up for our weaknesses in military terms," he said.

In Canberra, Prime Minister John Howard condemned Mahathir's comments saying they were offensive, repugnant and unhelpful.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli called Mahathir's remarks offensive and inflammatory. "We view them with the contempt and derision they deserve," he said yesterday.

The leaders of the European Union, meeting in Brussels, planned to adopt a statement saying the EU "deeply deplores" Mahathir's words, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said.

AP Source: Sydney Morning Herald