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MAKKAH, Dec 7: Leaders of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) opened a two-day extraordinary summit on Wednesday with a Saudi call for moderation and tolerance and a rejection of extremist violence. “Islamic unity would not be reached through bloodshed as claimed by the deviants,” Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz said at the inauguration of the summit.

King Abdullah, whose country hosts the 57-member OIC’s headquarters, called upon the Islamic jurisprudence arm of the organization to “fulfil its historic role of combating extremism.”

He urged Muslim leaders to unite and tackle extremists who he said had ‘hijacked’ their religion. He said the world’s one billion Muslims were weak and divided.

“It bleeds the heart of a believer to see how this glorious civilization has fallen from the height of glory to the ravine of frailty, and how its thoughts were hijacked by devilish and criminal gangs that spread havoc on earth.

“It is here that the Islamic Fiqh Academy, with its overhauled make-up, comes into assume its historic role and responsibility in all walks of life – political, economic, cultural and social domains — to reach a stage of solidarity and God willing, to a true and fortified unity worked through strong institutions so as to restore the Ummah to its rightful place in the balance of power.”

The Saudi king also called for a reform of educational programmes in Muslim countries.

“Developing the curriculum is essential to building a tolerant Muslim personality ... and to having a society that rejects isolation,” he said.

“Steeped in tolerance, such a personality will lay the foundation for a society that rejects isolationism and turns its back on courting hostility to the other by interacting with all humanity, adopting what is good and rejecting what is bad,” he maintained.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, whose country heads the summit, said the Muslim world “is faced with grave problems that affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the globe”.

“We can no longer neglect these problems or expect others to solve them for us,” he said.

He also struck a solemn note, saying Muslims across the world were in a state of ‘disunity and discord’ which he said was worse than any time in 14 centuries of the Muslim history.

“Muslims of the present age appear hopelessly divided,” Mr Badawi said: “We can no longer afford to be in a state of denial.”

In his speech, King Mohammed VI of Morocco said: “We must strive to achieve the highest possible degree of coordination and solidarity among us, and adopt a comprehensive approach to uproot terror, as part of a full-fledged, ambitious reform project.”

He supported the Saudi king’s proposal for setting up of an international centre against terrorism.—Agencies

Syed Rashid Husain adds: Speaking at the inaugural session, OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said: “We do not have the luxury of blaming others for our own problems. It is high time we addressed our national and regional problems with courage, sincerity and openness.

“This is what the Muslim masses expect from us. We have to create a culture of solidarity among Muslim nations by mobilizing our political, economic and cultural resources.”

Emphasizing the need for unity, he said: “We can achieve unity without neglecting the unique characteristics and circumstances of each Muslim nation. The rich tapestry of the Muslim world is a shining example of unity-in-diversity and can be an example for other societies of the world today. We have to understand that Muslim nations are stronger individually when the Muslim world is strong and united as a whole.”

He said that neither Iraq nor Kashmir was on the conference agenda and explained that the OIC was intended to review the current state of the Ummah and to explore strategies for the Muslim world to face the challenges of the 21st century.

Earlier, the leaders, including President General Pervez Musharraf, were welcomed by the Saudi king at the conference hall. Azad Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister Sardar Sikandar Hayat introduced APHC leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to King Abdullah who briefly spoke to Mirwaiz.

The presence of Kashmiri leaders at the conference has attained significance because of the upcoming visit of the Saudi king to India to attend the Republic Day celebration in New Delhi.

The leaders offered the Zuhr prayers together before going into the closed-door session.

UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe left Saudi Arabia after attending the inaugural session.

A 10-year plan for Muslims has been submitted to the leaders for discussion, envisaging a new era of unity and solidarity. A declaration to be known as Makkah Charter and a ‘vision for future’ is also under consideration of the Muslim leaders.