KUALA LUMPUR, July 31 — Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said while Malaysia accepts the fact that it’s a small, weak country and that it was imperative to learn how to survive amongst other powerful nations.
“Our policy is to be friendly with all countries of the world irrespective of their ideology or their practices.
“We want to be friends, we want to trade with them but sometimes, of course, we find that they do things which we cannot approve, but we are unable to change other countries.
“We accept the fact that we are a small weak country and a weak country must learn how to survive in the midst of very powerful nations. That is the history of Malaysia.
“We were a small state that exists in those days with many powerful countries around us. There is China, Siam [Thailand], and Myanmar... these were powerful countries in the past. But to exist, we have to learn how to handle relations with these powerful nations,” he told Imran Garda of the Turkish international news channel TRT World in an interview aired on Monday.
While agreeing that there are some differences between the members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr Mahathir said countries that are less affected by the instability in the organisation, such as Malaysia and Turkey, should take up the task to be exemplary Islamic nations on the global stage.
He said the recent Malaysia-Turkey pact discussed over his official visit in Ankara last week gives the two nations the opportunity to reflect a positive light on Islam, which he said is regularly linked with terrorism.
He also said the dispute between the two Islamic factions, Sunni and Shia, does not benefit the Muslim community as the world generalises the link between all Muslims with the act of terrorism.
“I think the rivalry between the Sunnis and the Shias is not doing anyone any good, neither for the Sunnis nor the Shias. Of course, each claim to be the current interpretation of Islam and we may dispute but the fact is that the world regards both Sunnis and Shias as Muslims. They don’t make a distinction and they consider both interpretations of the religion is terroristic, that Islam advocates terrorism whether they be Sunni or Shia.
“Malaysia and Turkey are among the few that seem to be more stable and more concerned about the fate of the Muslim ummah and their countries,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia and Turkey should show good governance in their respective countries in an atmosphere of peace and stability.
“We are capable of developing ourselves, capable of competing with the rest of the world,” he said in the interview.
While Malaysia stands by its policy in distancing from interfering with the internal affairs of other countries, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia would provide the best help it could towards foreign Muslim groups who are oppressed, such as the Rohingya people in Myanmar and the Palestinians.
On China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim community, Dr Mahathir said Putrajaya would condemn the act if it’s true that the community is being detained in detention camps as reported by various news reports.
“China is a very powerful nation and the way we treat America is also the way we have to treat China because it is powerful. It is capable of taking action on its own that may be detrimental to the relationship of many Muslim countries with China.
“At the moment we need to verify certain things that they are accused of. Of course, they denied it We believe that the approach should not be confrontational. It should be through negotiation and exposure of what is actually happening in China.
“We can condemn it but the fact is that the condemnation alone is not going to achieve anything, simply because China is a big power and there is no question of us taking any violent action against China. If we have the facts, we should condemn. But there is not much more we can do beyond that,” he said in the interview.