UNITED NATIONS: Kings, emirs and presidents from Muslim nations have made pressing appeals at the United Nations for the West to clampdown on attacks on Islam which they warned is a growing threat to international security.
In speeches to the UN General Assembly, leaders said that "Islamophobia" was causing a growing Muslim-West divide and one top Arab minister put the international community on guard against a "civilization clash."
A threat to burn the Quran by a fringe US church, controversy over a proposed mosque near the scene of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and assaults on Islamic symbols in European countries have been a major talking point for Muslim nations.
Normally strong allies of the West have spoken out at the UN against the growing religious tensions in the past week.
Many were embarrassed by comments by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad linking the US government to 9/11, diplomats said.
But Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, who has launched western-backed diplomatic initiatives to settle wars ranging from Sudan to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, condemned attempts to link Islam with terrorism. He partly blamed the US "War on Terror" declared after September 11.
"We disagree with the attribution of this so-called terrorism to the Islamic religion because this – in addition to being incorrect – is a historical injustice that is refuted by evidence from recent history."
He said "gratuitous violent actions" in the United States, Europe and Asia in the late 20th century were never labeled as being American, European or Asian terrorism.
"This violence was attributed to its underlying political, economic, social and even ideological causes, without attributing it to a particular religion, country or idea."
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit condemned "regrettable and appalling incidents that have increasingly touched Muslims and Islam, repeatedly and sometimes systematically in certain cases."
He added: "We find the West, in general, being drawn into a clash with the Muslim world. This clash will serve no one except extremists and those who hold perverted ideas on both sides. It will not be in the interest of security and stability in the world."
Aboul Gheit called for western governments to take action, including passing laws.
"We call upon all countries and especially governments, to assume their responsibility to confront the specter of a dreadful religious and civilization clash."
King Abdullah II of Jordan said it is "essential to resist forces of division that spread misunderstanding." He called for an annual World Interfaith Harmony Week to promote tolerance.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak told the UN assembly that the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims were offended by "attempts to demonize Islam."
He added: "It intensifies the divide between the broad Muslim world and the West."
Razak said the battle was one between moderates and extremists in all religions. "We must, and I repeat, we must urgently reclaim the center and the moral high ground that has been usurped from us."
Mohamed Waheed, vice president of the Maldives, said "religious intolerance, negative stereotyping, racial-profiling, and discrimination thwarts (the United Nations’) mission for peace and prosperity among all societies."
Spain and Turkey set up an Alliance of Civilizations in 2005 which the United Nations now sponsors and has built up into a 122-member organization to bridge religious and cultural chasms.
"We live in a world where the smallest group can inflict large damage," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told a ministerial meeting of the alliance in New York at the UN assembly.
Highlighting attacks on Muslim tombs in France and other acts in Europe, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the 58-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, compared the phenomenon to the anti-Semitic movement of the 1930s.
"When the tombs of Senegalese soldiers who died for the French flag are desecrated, what can you say," he commented, referring to one recent incident.
He said European leaders must become more conscious of what he called a "dangerous phenomenon" and take action with Muslim leaders.