PostHeaderIcon Asian Security Forum Condemns Stereotyping of Muslims as Terrorists

Muslim nations at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in the Lao capital Vientiane have complained that Muslims were being singled out in investigations into attacks and even at immigration check points. The foreign minister of mainly Muslim Malaysia, Syed Hamid Albar, said Thursday his country was concerned at the increasing profiling, particularly by the West, of Muslims as terrorists. "We are worried about the profiling," he was quoted as saying in Vientiane by the official Malaysian news agency Bernama. Syed Hamid complained that the suspicion fell on Muslims immediately after attacks, with police raiding their houses and publicising their pictures. Muslims were also accosted at immigration points because of their "Muslim looks", he said. Addressing these concerns, foreign ministers of the 25-member ARF, which includes the United States, said terrorism should not be identified "with any particular religion or ethnic group." In a statement issued at the end of their annual meeting, they said "terrorism, irrespective of its origins, motivations or objectives, constitutes a threat to all peoples and countries." They also welcomed improved dialogue among different religious faiths in the region. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the tendency to identify religion with terrorism was misguided. "There is a feeling that we need to make sure that we are not in any ways, as an international community, directing our wrath against Muslims as such," Downer said, adding that such anger must be directed "against criminals and terrorists". People of all faiths should "work together to make sure that those people who commit these acts of murder of innocent people are brought to justice," he said. ASEAN includes the world's biggest Muslim nation, Indonesia, home to the region's biggest terror attack, the 2002 bombings in Bali that killed 202 people, 88 of them Australian. The Bali attack and subsequent strikes in Jakarta have been blamed on the Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian affiliate of the Al-Qaeda terror network. Other mostly Muslim nations in ASEAN are Brunei and Malaysia. Largely ethnic Chinese Singapore has a substantial Muslim minority, while Muslims also have a presence in the southern Philippines and southern Thailand. The ARF also includes Pakistan, which has been trying to root out militants believed to be based in its remote tribal regions. Malaysia's Syed Hamid said he had raised his concerns about the stereotyping of Muslims with the European Union. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana also addressed the issue in Vientiane, saying the fight against terrorism should focus not only on the militants and their networks but also on the "root cause" of the problem. This could be done "through education and through better understanding of each other's faiths and societies," Solana said. mba/br/mtp