17-18 JANUARY 2003



It is a pleasure for me to bring you compliments from Dr. Abdelouahed Belkeziz, Secretary-General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, who would have loved to be here with you in person but for his other urgent and pressing official assignments.

I am pleased to convey to His Excellency President Paul Biya and the Government of Cameroon deep gratitude and appreciation for hosting such an important Islamic gathering in this beautiful city of Yaoundé and for the excellent preparation put into it and I thank you for the warm welcome extended to Conference participants. It is also a delight to commend the friendly cooperation that Cameroon has always exhibited towards the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, as I commend its desire to strengthen the cause of Joint Islamic Action which we all are striving to achieve.

Your Excellency, Mr. President,

The agenda of this Fifth Session is full of issues that are of special importance – politically, economically, culturally and organizationwise. Most of them are considered issues of the moment. Dealing with them calls for a large measure of wisdom and effective Islamic solidarity. Your meeting is also holding in an unusual international climate, where tension and chaos prevail. In it, the Islamic world is subjected to unprecedented hate campaign, which aims to defame the religion and to make insinuations about its civilization and culture. And it aims to wage a war against Islamic countries.

Perhaps this is, for a long time, the most dangerous situation in which Islam has found itself confronting blatant cultural and political threats. The matter requires that we stand together and mobilize every energy to ward off this imminent danger. We will do this by responding to the attacks and challenges, with a unified method, with contemporary mentality and with purposeful dialogue. The Islamic mass media also have a duty to make the voices of Islam and Muslims heard in the West, and in the western language, in order to enlighten others about ourselves and our direction, and about the tolerance of our religion and the nobility of our civilization and culture. We wish that Allah grants you success in your deliberations to address these important issues, with the consequence that the Islamic Ummah and people, whom you represent in this important meeting may be strengthened, and that our Islamic world can enjoy security, peace, tranquility, strength and honour.

Mr. President,

The cycle of bloody conflicts in Palestine has remained a daily occurrence. Despite many attempts and initiatives from various sources aimed at resuming the Middle East Peace Process, these efforts have not been met with success. The blame for this is to be put on the doorstep of the current Israeli Government which adopts a policy of procrastination in order to stall any positive move towards the direction of peace. While that remains the position, Israel continues to wage a devastating war against the children of the Palestinian people, with the aim to kill and assassinate, to wipe out the leadership, and to destroy homes, property, farmlands and infrastructure. The Palestinian people are also the targets of state terrorism and victims of collective punishment and other crimes all of which are regarded as war crimes in international law. This dangerous situation could lead to further chaos and blood letting, for violence begets violence. Israel must therefore know that no matter what deadly weapons it possesses, there can never be a hope for its security and existence through a military option. Israel must look for peaceful solution that aims to lay acceptable practical foundation to address the root causes of the problems that have made the Middle East a theatre of conflict for almost sixty years. The solution must guarantee the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination on their homeland. It must secure for them the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital. That way, harmony, security and tranquility would prevail in the region.

Mr. President,

We, at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, have always declared that terrorism is an abominable crime; and we condemn it in all its forms and manifestations. We have shown that the religion of Islam condemns terrorism and considers the killing innocent souls tantamount to killing the whole of human race. Our Organisation is at the forefront of drawing attention to the dangers of terrorism, and to that end, we have adopted a body of law on conduct for Statesto abide by. That is in addition to a Treaty on opposition to terrorism which has been ratified by a number of Member States. The Organisation has organized two extraordinary Islamic Conferences of Foreign Ministers at Doha in October 2001, and at Kuala Lumpur in April 2002, to emphasize Islam’s condemnation of terrorism. In those two Conferences, we called for the need to craft a lucid international definition for terrorism in the context of the United Nations System so that, with an international consensus, we would be able to arrive at an exact definition of a terrorist act. We have also said that the legitimate national struggle of a people, which is based on international legitimacy, such as the struggle of the Palestinian people cannot be described as terrorism. We stressed that the best way to fight terrorism cannot be through or by means of violence. Terrorism can be fought by seeking to extirpate its root causes, such as poverty and exclusion, political and economic injustice, hopelessness and denial of human rights, usurpation of the right of people to self- determination and denial of general freedom. We have declared that to cast wide the net of the war against terrorism so as to include Islamic countries is not acceptable. We also condemned state terrorism carried out by some organizations, chief among them is the ruling establishment in Israel.

For us, fighting terrorism is a risky and complex topic and it must be left to the United Nations System, which should put in place international legislations that would determine the means of going about it. We strongly believe that exploiting the so-called war against terror to achieve narrow political ends that are unrelated to terrorism could weaken the international campaign against terror and undermine the international coalition. It is also our view that general freedom in countries should not be the first victim of the campaign against terror, as has recently happened to Muslim communities in some countries.

It has been stressed at numerous meetings of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference held in the past year that the Islamic world rejects the use of the campaign against terror as a pretext to strike Iraq, Many Islamic countries have separately expressed this position. We suggest that the problem of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq – if there are – should be solved through available peace channels, through the United Nations. There is no justification for military force that will only lead to more destruction, more shedding of innocent blood, and to greater instability in the Middle East region.

Mr. President,

The most powerful domain of Islamic solidarity and Joint Islamic Action is the economic field. It is the field chosen by most international groupings to serve as a launchpad for their united action. When we look at this in the context of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, we will discover that the economic field constitutes the weakest domain of Islamic Joint Action. This weakness is manifested in the scantiness of trade exchanges between Member States. The size is actually no more than 11% of inter-trade. Within the context of Globalization and the fierce competition Globalization has created; in the context of advanced industrial countries resorting to creation of economic blocs that grow in size day after day, blocs with numerous protective measures directed towards the economies of developing countries, it is natural that Member States economies, most of which belong to the fold of developing countries, would suffer greater marginalization. The best approach to confronting economic challenge, therefore, is a unified action to create a united Islamic economic front.

Fortunately the beginning of this action has started to crystallize following the coming into force recently of the Framework for Preferential Trading System among OIC Member States. That initiative would open the door to rounds of trade negotiations among our countries.

Mr. President,

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference has been in the forefront of enunciating the idea of Dialogue among Civilisations as a substitute to the idea of Clash of Civilisations which has been disseminated by some Western thinkers. The idea of dialogue has been warmly welcomed in many Western circles, particularly in Europe. The idea has also had practical application in international meetings at the level of the United Nations such that the UN declared the year 2001 as the Year of Dialogue of Civilisations. Many conferences and symposia on this subject were held in many parts of the world. The year of Dialogue of Civilisations (2001) led the United Nations into issuing a “Document on Dialogue of Civilisation”. The document stresses “The need for States to refrain – in international relations – from resorting to threat to use force, or to threaten the national unity or political independence of States to carry out any action at variance with the objectives of the United Nations.”

The OIC also organized at the beginning of 2002 an international forum at the level of Foreign Ministers, in conjunction with the European Union. That meeting represented an historic international event of a high official-level Islamic-European meeting. The forum marked the beginning of official Islamic-European Dialogue. It is our hope that the dialogue grows in the future to strengthen the bonds of mutual understanding and acquaintance between the Islamic world and the European Union.

The goal of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in this connection is to build a coalition for mutual understanding and peace to enable us uproot the causes of violence, hatred, hopelessness and terrorism. Our goal is to spread the culture of peace and tolerance, of recognition of the other and of respect for their cultural peculiarities. We aim to enthrone human rights and thereby make a valuable contribution with a view to achieving understanding, security and tranquility among human beings.

Wassalam Alaykum wa-Rahmatullahi wa-Barakatuh.