- Malaysia's prime minister yesterday accused Westerners of prejudice against the Islamic world and said Western support for Israel was the biggest reason fuelling Muslim hostility.
"Much of the prejudice against Islam in the West stems from a lack of understanding of the true nature of Islam as a religion professed by 1.4 billion people in the world," Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said.
"Westerners tend to view other peoples and other cultures only from the perspective of Western benchmarks and philosophy," he said as he received an honorary degree at Tokyo's Meiji University.
But Abdullah also denied that history was to blame for current tensions between Islamic and Western societies.
"Explanation is to be found in more recent times, which is the repeated use of force or other machinations by the powerful over the weak, to secure political, strategic or territorial gains," he said.
He added that the most urgent problem was the Middle East and criticised Israel for its deadly air strikes, which the Jewish state launched last week on the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks on its territory.
The world "must accept the fact that a festering Palestinian problem, among all factors, is the single most important factor perpetuating the tension between the West in general and the Muslim world as a whole", he said.
"We must accept the fact that the plight of the Palestinians has come to epitomise everything that is unjust and unfair to the treatment of peoples," he said.
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the Islamic world perceived Western nations as defending "Judeo-Christian tradition against the spread of radical militant Islam, thus legitimising all of Israel's actions no matter how brutal".
"When you add to this the invasion of Afghanistan, the conquest of Iraq, the aggression against Lebanon, and the continuing occupation of the Golan Heights, the Muslim world sees a ... complicity," he said.
"The feeling of being humiliated," he said, "has transformed into hostility."
Abdullah is usually seen as more soft-spoken than his predecessor Mahathir Mohamad, who is known for his tirades against the West and Israel.