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The BBC's Frances Harrison
"Bound by a common faith"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 27 June, 2000, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Conference calls for Muslim unity
Kaaba at Mecca
The leaders of the Muslim world are at the meeting
Frances Harrison reports from Kuala Lumpur

Foreign ministers from 56-nation Islamic nations have been told to unite to face the dangers of globalisation.

Saudi delegates at OIC conference
Saudi delegates listen to Dr Mahathir

The warning came as Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad opened a four-day meeting of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

The theme of the meeting is "Islam and globalisation", a subject close to Dr Mahathir's heart.

Dr Mahathir said non-Muslims were busy exploiting new technologies to the full, while Muslim countries were being left behind.

He warned that Muslim countries that were technologically backward and economically poor risked being bullied and recolonised by the non-Muslim world.

Dr Mahathir
Dr Mahathir warned Muslims to unite

Dr Mahathir said some Muslims would be tempted to resort to wild and indiscriminate acts in retaliation.

"We will be called terrorists and our countries condemned as the basis for terrorist attacks," he added.

"What we achieve with such acts will be nothing more than minor irritations but the punishment they will mete out to us will be terrible for all our people."

Hostages

But the challenge of the new information era is not the only issue facing the conference.

Delegates are also expected to discuss conflicts in the Muslim world, such as those in Chechnya, Kosovo and Kashmir.

Grenade blast victim, Jolo, Philippines
There are fears of greater extremism in the southern Philippines

Malaysia in particular will be pushing for a resolution criticising the Philippine Government for failing to honour a peace agreement with Muslim rebels.

The implication being that Manila's failure to end the conflict in the Mindanao region has contributed to the detention of 20 hostages seized from a Malaysian diving resort in April.

The governor of Mindanao, Nur Misuari, who is heading a delegation of former rebels as observers at the meeting, said he feared the failure of the peace agreement would only lead to greater extremism among the Muslims of the southern Philippines.

Malaysian officials say they also expect the conference to condemn the hostage taking by the Abu Sayyaf group as an embarrassment to Islam.

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