KUALA LUMPUR - Leaders from Muslim nations, including Iran’s Hassan Rouhani and Recep Erdoḡan of Turkey, descended on Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday (Dec 18) for the start of the 2019 Kuala Lumpur Summit to find solutions to problems affecting the Islamic world.
Education, wealth redistribution, food security and technology are among the topics on the anvil, as are the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar and the alleged persecution of Uighur Muslims in China, as well as the dispute in Kashmir and conflict in the Middle East.
Welcoming high-level delegates over dinner at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in the city on Wednesday, prime minster Mahathir Mohamad told them there was a pressing need to overcome Islamophobia while enriching the lives of Muslims around the world.
“We need to find a way to address our shortcomings, our dependency on non-Muslims to protect ourselves against the enemies of Islam,” Mahathir said.
The prime minister said the Kuala Lumpur Summit did not set out to replace the role of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), he told local reporters after an urgent video conference with King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
The prime minister said King Salman had been invited to attend the summit but declined since he disagreed with using it as a platform to discuss Muslim issues.
He is said to prefer a full meeting of the OIC as a forum to address issues involving Muslims, as the 57-member organisation represents all Islamic countries.
In response, the Malaysian prime minister said his country is too small to assume the role of the multinational bloc.
“His majesty felt that such matters should not be discussed between two or three countries only, should have an OIC meeting, and I agree with him,” the prime minister told local media as reported by state news agency Bernama.
He had earlier stressed that the summit, in its fifth year, is a non-governmental organisation initiative supported by the Malaysian government.
“I said that if Saudi Arabia organises a summit to discuss the same matter, we’re ready to go," Mahathir added.
A statement from the prime minister’s office reiterated that the summit was “not intended to create a new bloc, as alluded to by some of its critics”.
“Dr Mahathir would also like to correct some misinformation as was reported in Pakistan Today that alleged Dr Mahathir as saying that the KL Summit was intended to be a platform to replace the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
“[It] is not a platform to discuss about religion or religious affairs but specifically to address the state of affairs of the Muslim ummah,” it added.
It also confirmed that all OIC member countries had been invited, and each is represented at the event at various capacities.
INDONESIA, PAKISTAN LEADERS ABSENT
The summit was supposed to bring together leaders from Malaysia, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, Qatar and Turkey to address and resolve issues concerning Muslims.
However, Indonesian vice-president Ma’ruf Amin cancelled his visit on the advice of doctors on Wednesday, and Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was unavailable to attend, according to the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Office. Reuters had earlier reported that Khan pulled out because of pressure from Saudi Arabia, although Kuala Lumpur denies this.
Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, has joined the event alongside Iran’s Rouhani and Turkey’s Erdogan.
The Qatari and Iranian leaders each held meetings with Mahathir in Putrajaya and Malaysia’s King Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah hosted the presidents of Iran and Turkey at separate audiences at his official residence in Kuala Lumpur.
A two-day Youth Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019 concluded yesterday after passing a number of resolutions concerning youth empowerment in Muslim countries.
Delegates from 22 countries had assembled for the prelude to the high-level summit to hold discussions about ways to strengthen the well-being of young people via education, the digital economy and politics.
They resolved to establish a body to monitor youth empowerment in participating Muslim countries. They also called for the creation of a business incubation programme for entrepreneurs, and a think tank to identify issues young people face in Islamic nations.
The resolutions will be presented to the leaders at the main event over three days in the Malaysian capital.
(Reporting by Richard Whitehead; Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim [email protected])
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