Kuala Lumpur, 25 March 1998/K/MS/15881/c-is

In his inaugural address at the Malaysia-EU joint Seminar on "Europe and the Islamic World," Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Seri Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad yesterday gave a historical record of the relations between the Islamic world and Europe. He presented the experience of Malaysia as a violence-free Muslim majority country that can provide the example of a "truly Islamic modus vivendi in inter-religious and inter-civilisational accord." Dr. Mahathir also referred to the present state of the political relations between Europe and the Islamic world. He called for a changing of the European perception of the Muslim world and pointed to examples of a European policy of double standards vis-ˆ-vis the Islamic world. "Many Muslim countries are now under siege by Europeans. Their people starved and deprived of medicine and the necessities of life. It may not have been a conspiracy against Muslims and Muslim countries but the fact is that the victims are Muslims and the perpetrators are European or of European antecedents," Dr. Mahathir said.

In a question and answer session with the Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr. Hans Koechler, President of the I.P.O., explained the need for a joint and independent foreign policy of the European Union vis--vis the Arab and Muslim world in a new multipolar international system. This point was taken up by the Prime Minister who expressed the hope for a better balanced international order that would replace the present unipolar system of power.

In its recommendations, the Seminar stated "that many Muslims regard the European Union as insufficiently independent of the United States and in need of policies more responsive to Muslim concerns." Among other concerns, the participants suggested that the "Barcelona process" of economic co-operation between the EU and the Arab Mediterranean countries "should be more inclusive, and that sanctions against states in the region need to be reconsidered" because of their devastating effect on the civilian population.

The Seminar was jointly organized by the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) and by the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies with the support of the European Union. In his concluding remarks the representative of the European Commission, Ambassador Michel Caillouet, announced the continuation of the European-Islamic dialogue.