Vietnam and Afghanistan: A tale of two US military withdrawals

Special Combo image showing a picture of the 1975 fall of Saigon by Dutch photographer Hugh Van Es (left) and a chaotic scene at Kabul airport on August 19, 2021. (Wikimedia Commons and AFP)
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Combo image showing a picture of the 1975 fall of Saigon by Dutch photographer Hugh Van Es (left) and a chaotic scene at Kabul airport on August 19, 2021. (Wikimedia Commons and AFP)
Special An infant is handed over to US soldiers through a barrier at Kabul airport amid an onrush of people trying to catch a flight out of Afghanistan to flee the Taliban onslaught last month. (AFP file)
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An infant is handed over to US soldiers through a barrier at Kabul airport amid an onrush of people trying to catch a flight out of Afghanistan to flee the Taliban onslaught last month. (AFP file)
Special Afghans try to board a departing US Air Force transport plane at Kabul airport as conquering Taliban fighters captured the capital last month. (AFP file)
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Afghans try to board a departing US Air Force transport plane at Kabul airport as conquering Taliban fighters captured the capital last month. (AFP file)
Special Afghans run in desperation after failing to board a departing US Air Force transport plane at Kabul airport as conquering Taliban fighters captured the capital last month. (AFP file)
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Afghans run in desperation after failing to board a departing US Air Force transport plane at Kabul airport as conquering Taliban fighters captured the capital last month. (AFP file)
Special Afghans run in desperation after failing to board a departing US Air Force transport plane at Kabul airport as conquering Taliban fighters captured the capital last month. (AFP file)
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Afghans run in desperation after failing to board a departing US Air Force transport plane at Kabul airport as conquering Taliban fighters captured the capital last month. (AFP file)
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Updated 06 September 2021

Vietnam and Afghanistan: A tale of two US military withdrawals

Combo image showing a picture of the 1975 fall of Saigon by Dutch photographer Hugh Van Es (left) and a chaotic scene at Kabul airport in August 19, 2021. (Wikimedia Commons and AFP)
  • US enmity with Vietnam’s communist rulers gave way to frienship and strategic partnership
  • Whether Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers and the US can bury their enmity remains to be seen

WASHINGTON D.C.: Images of the chaotic last days of the US mission in Afghanistan have been compared widely to the scenes of the final evacuation from Saigon in 1975 as the victorious North Vietnamese Army rolled into the capital of South Vietnam.

Iconic photos of desperate Vietnamese trying to scale the walls of the US embassy bear a striking resemblance to those of civilians clambering up the gates of Kabul airport last month in hopes of catching one of the last flights out of the country.

In hindsight, the parallels between the American experience in Vietnam and Afghanistan are too many to ignore. Just like the US began a rapid military drawdown in Vietnam after signing the Paris Peace Accords with North Vietnam in 1973, the February 2020 Doha deal between the US and the Taliban set the scene for America’s rush for the exits in Afghanistan.

By 1975, the only US soldiers remaining in South Vietnam were the Marines who guarded the embassy in Saigon and a small contingent at a nearby air base. By the end of April that year, the city, later renamed Ho Chi Minh City, had fallen to the North VIetnamese Army (NVA).




Jubilant communist troops atop tanks make their way to the center of Saigon as the city fell under their control on April 30, 1975. (Vietnam News Agency photo via AFP) 

The US had hoped that the peace accords would allow for the “Vietnamization” of the conflict, transferring combat operations and security away from the US military to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN).

But just like the Afghan National Army — in which Washington had invested billions in training and equipment — proved incapable of securing the country on their own, the ARVN crumbled in the absence of the full complement of US ground combat units and field advisers.

For a long time after the humiliating end to the Vietnam War, the US seemed to suffer from a crisis of confidence, questioning its strength, the appeal of its values and its role in the world.

“This will be the final message from Saigon station,” wrote Thomas Polgar, the last serving CIA station chief in Saigon, before his evacuation. “It has been a long and hard fight and we have lost. This experience, unique in the history of the US, does not signal, necessarily, the demise of the US as a world power.”

He added: “Those who fail to learn from history are forced to repeat it. Let us hope that we will not have another Vietnam experience and that we have learned our lesson. Saigon signing off.”




Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport on August 16, 2021, to flee the country as the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. (AFP file)

American military historians would be right to assess that the lessons of Vietnam were lost when the US pursued another open-ended war whose initial limited objectives were overtaken by a zeal for nation-building.

As with Saigon in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the government in Kabul supported by the US military lacked the competence and broad legitimacy to combat an insurgency on its own.

In a now declassified 1969 memo to former president Richard Nixon, his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, expressed deep concern that the war was unlikely to be won militarily.

“I am not optimistic about the ability of the South Vietnamese armed forces to assume a larger part of the burden than current plans allow,” he wrote, adding: “Hanoi’s adoption of a strategy designed to wait us out fits both with its doctrine of how to fight a revolutionary war and with its expectations about increasingly significant problems for the US.”

In both the Vietnam and Afghanistan missions, time and lack of strategic patience were America’s main weaknesses in the face of a stubborn insurgency. Of the four different administrations that have guided US foreign policy since the Afghan war began, none took a step back to assess the likelihood of success as rationally and impartially as Kissinger did in the 1969 memo.

Although the Afghanistan mission did not produce the kind of civil disturbance and political turmoil synonymous with the Vietnam War, there was a broad consensus among US politicians for some time now that an indefinite military involvement in the culturally distant Central Asian country was not desirable.

Now that the Afghanistan chapter is closed, some point to the fact that the post-1975 period has seen a slow but remarkable rapprochement between the US and Vietnam.

Within the space of 20 years, the former belligerent nations were able to forge a relationship that today has evolved into a veritable strategic partnership, symbolized by the US-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership of 2013.

A quarter of a century after the establishment of bilateral relations in 1995, the US and Vietnam are thus partners with a friendship grounded in mutual respect and suspicion of China’s geopolitical motives.

The partnership now spans political, economic, security and people-to-people ties. Tens of thousands of Vietnamese citizens study in the US and contribute almost $1 billion to the US economy.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

“We must remember that the immediate consequences of the Vietnam War were horrible. Many in South Vietnam were sent to camps and murdered, resulting in a huge human-rights tragedy,” James Carafano, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Arab News. “Today, Vietnam is a different place. Vietnamese are terrified of China and they need the US to defend them.”

A strong, prosperous and independent Vietnam is very much in Washington’s interest as Hanoi and Beijing remain locked in a standoff over competing territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Bilateral trade between the two nations has grown from $451 million in 1995 to more than $90 billion in 2020. US goods exports to Vietnam were worth more than $10 billion in 2020, while imports were worth a whopping $79.6 billion. US investment in Vietnam touched $2.6 billion in 2019.




Vietnam's exports to the US swelled over the past decade. (Reuters file photo)

Now that the war in Afghanistan is over and discussions between the Taliban and regional countries toward diplomatic normalization are ongoing, the evolution of US-Vietnamese relations from enmity to a flourishing partnership can prove instructive.

Could economic leverage, common security interests and deft diplomacy achieve in Afghanistan what the expenditure of billions of dollars in building a defense force in the mold of Western militaries failed to do?

The Taliban have been keen to signal that they are ready to engage diplomatically with regional powers, including China, the Arab Gulf states, Turkey and even India.

For the US, the immediate security objective is to make sure that neither Al-Qaeda nor Daesh establishes a base of operations to plot transnational terror attacks from. To this end, the US will have to make use of all the tools at its disposal: Soft power, diplomacy and economic incentives.

The worst-case scenario at the time of the 1975 US defeat was a communist victory in South Vietnam having a “domino effect,” leading to the collapse of Southeast Asian governments allied with the US. But such an eventuality did not come to fruition.

The dramatic turnaround in US-Vietnam relations means there is room for hope in the case of Afghanistan, too, but with a number of caveats.

“There were two reasons why the US remained in Afghanistan: One, to prevent another space for transnational terror again, and two, to prevent the destabilization of South Asia. Both were legitimate US interests,” said Carafano.

“Now we have no presence, no visibility on the terrorist situation and no deterrent against actors in the region. We have lost the trust of allies.”

As for the future, Carafano said: “The Taliban are not going through an evolution like Germany post-Second World War. It’s a ridiculous notion that the Taliban will normalize as a government. Daesh are useful idiots who do not have the capacity to threaten anybody. They are a bigger threat to the Taliban than to us.

“Will the Taliban break with the Haqqani network and Al-Qaeda? They won’t. The Taliban may not plan the next 9/11, but Al-Qaeda and Haqqani will.”




In this photo taken on May 31, 2017, Afghan security forces stand at the site of a deadly explosion blamed on the Haqqani network. (AP file)

Clearly, the time-worn tribal partnership between the Haqqani network, which is an integral part of the Taliban, and Al-Qaeda, will be a major complicating factor in the Taliban’s ability or willingness to prevent the international terror group from rebounding.

For the moment, the Taliban seem to be making all the right noises. The political leadership has emphasized that they are pursuing a nationalist vision, not a transnational one.

What remains to be seen is whether the group can prioritize the needs of running the affairs of state, which will require significant outside financial support and technical expertise, over a wild-eyed “revolutionary” vision that includes terror sanctuaries.

“In Vietnam, military victory over the US did not translate to a strategic defeat of the US and the anti-communist bloc globally,” Carafano told Arab News.

“Both Republican and Democratic administrations have taken successive steps toward strengthening Washington’s commitment to a security partnership with Vietnam. Previously unthinkable, US Navy aircraft carriers are now allowed to dock in Vietnamese ports.




US Vice President Kamala Harris meets with Vietnam's Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh din Hanoi on August 25, 2021. (REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool)

“Whether the US and Taliban-controlled Afghanistan can develop some level of security arrangement based on a common threat perception is an open-ended question.

“But already, China and Russia have signaled that they are ready for a bigger role in Afghanistan in the wake of the US withdrawal. Though they are likely to engage cautiously. Both powers’ interest in Afghanistan lies in winning without fighting. But they’ll take their time in Afghanistan.”

In the final analysis, time was the overarching factor in America’s military defeat by the insurgency in both Vietnam and Afghanistan. But it also was the passage of time following the Vietnam War that enabled the adversaries to grow into friends based on common interests and threats.

It remains to be seen what American policymakers have learnt from the two humiliating withdrawals in order to avoid a third. With Vietnam, the US was able to salvage a measure of diplomatic victory from its military defeat. In Afghanistan, much will depend on the Taliban leadership’s ability and willingness to make a complete break with the past.

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Twitter: @OS26


US Supreme Court backs Biden bid to end Trump ‘remain in Mexico’ policy

US Supreme Court backs Biden bid to end Trump ‘remain in Mexico’ policy
Updated 30 June 2022

US Supreme Court backs Biden bid to end Trump ‘remain in Mexico’ policy

US Supreme Court backs Biden bid to end Trump ‘remain in Mexico’ policy
  • Supreme Court overturns decision requiring Biden to restart Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy after the Republican-led states sued to maintain the program

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Thursday gave a major boost to President Joe Biden’s drive to end a hard-line immigration policy begun under his predecessor Donald Trump that forced tens of thousands of migrants to stay in Mexico to await US hearings on their asylum claims.
The justices, in a 5-4 ruling authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, overturned a lower court’s decision requiring Biden to restart Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy after the Republican-led states of Texas and Missouri sued to maintain the program.
The ruling bolsters Biden as he pursues what he calls a more “humane” approach at the southern border even as Republicans blame him for what they portray as an immigration crisis.
The justices concluded that the New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals erred in finding that federal immigration law required sending migrants back to Mexico so long as there was not enough space to detain them in the United States.
“The problem is that the statute does not say anything like that,” Roberts wrote, adding that the 5th Circuit’s decision also mistakenly imposed a “significant burden” upon the US government’s ability to conduct diplomatic relations with Mexico.
Trump’s administration adopted the policy, formally called the “Migrant Protection Protocols,” in 2018 in response to an increase in migration along the US-Mexican border, changing longstanding US practice. It prevented certain non-Mexican migrants, including asylum seekers fearing persecution in their home countries, from being released into the United States to await immigration proceedings, instead returning them to Mexico.
Biden’s fellow Democrats and immigration advocates have criticized Trump’s policy, saying migrants stuck in Mexican border cities have faced kidnappings and other hazards.
Roberts was joined by fellow conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the three liberal justices in the ruling. In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito — joined by fellow conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch — said Congress never meant for the government to release immigrants and simply hope they “will show up for the hearing.”
The ruling also faulted the 5th Circuit for voiding the administration’s June 2021 decision to end Trump’s program. The 5th Circuit found that Biden’s administration had failed to properly explain its rescinding of Trump’s policy in violation of federal administrative law. But the Supreme Court found that the June 2021 decision was superseded by a new, more detailed one issued by the administration four months later.
Biden suspended the “remain in Mexico” policy in January 2021 shortly after taking office and acted to rescind it five months later. Roughly 68,000 people fell under the policy from the time it took effect in 2019 until Biden suspended it.
At issue in the case was the meaning of a provision of a 1996 US immigration law that stated that US officials “may return” certain immigrants to Mexican territory pending immigration proceedings. Texas and Missouri have said this provision must be used because the United States lacks detention space for migrants. Biden’s administration said the provision was clearly discretionary.
For migrants not posing a security risk, immigration law separately allows their release into the United States for humanitarian reasons or “significant public benefit” pending a hearing, a practice officials have followed for decades.
Kavanaugh, in a concurring opinion, said that every president since the late 1990s has allowed immigrants into the United States to await their proceedings.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, criticized the ruling, saying it “will only embolden the Biden administration’s open border policies.”
Immigrant rights groups called the ruling a victory.
“The US for generations has been a refuge for those fleeing danger and persecution,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, urging Biden’s administration to “move swiftly to permanently end every facet of the human rights disaster that is ‘remain in Mexico.’“
The number of migrants caught crossing the US-Mexico border has reached record highs recently. Republicans contend that the “remain in Mexico” policy effectively deterred unlawful migration.
After a judge ruled in favor of Texas and Missouri, reinstating the program, the Supreme Court last August refused the Biden administration’s request to block that decision while it appealed. The 5th Circuit ruled in December that because the government lacks the capacity to detain all migrants eligible for admission pending a hearing, it must maintain “remain in Mexico.”
Thursday’s decision came on the final day of rulings for the court’s current nine-month term.


Congresswoman Newman ousted by fellow Democrats over pro-Palestinian, progressive views

Congresswoman Newman ousted by fellow Democrats over pro-Palestinian, progressive views
Updated 30 June 2022

Congresswoman Newman ousted by fellow Democrats over pro-Palestinian, progressive views

Congresswoman Newman ousted by fellow Democrats over pro-Palestinian, progressive views
  • ‘Dark money’ and smearing as antisemitic scuppers re-election bid, says candidate’s advisor
  • ‘Campaign reforms vital to limit political funding by reactionary, pro-Israel, interest groups’

CHICAGO: Although many Arab activists will point a finger at former president Donald Trump and blame him for racism and discrimination against their community, one of the newest and loudest voices supporting Palestinian rights was ousted by the Democratic Party they supported during Tuesday’s Illinois elections.

Congresswoman Marie Newman, who was elected in 2020 to represent the 3rd District, which has one of the largest concentrations of Palestinian voters, lost her re-election bid to a fellow member of the Democratic Party who had support from both the Democrats and pro-Israel PACs.

Newman was targeted by these political action committees because she had during her first year in office introduced or co-sponsored dozens of resolutions and bills defending Palestinian civil and human rights, which also harshly criticized Israel’s government policies.

To silence Newman, her supporters said, her own Democratic Party redrew her district and forced her to run against another more centrist Democrat, two-term incumbent Sean Casten of the 6th District.

Newman lost to Casten in the Illinois Democratic Primary Tuesday, June 28. Casten received 54 percent of the vote while Newman received only 42.3 percent, according to unofficial Illinois State Election Board results.

Shadin Maali, a Palestinian American political consultant who joined Newman’s team, blamed her defeat on “dark money” and being defamed as “antisemitic” because of her criticism of Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinians.

 

“We can be critical of our own government,” Maali told Arab News Wednesday during the broadcast of The Ray Hanania Show program.

“We can criticize our government left and right. We do it every day. It is our fundamental democratic right to do so. But for some reason, this whole antisemitic label, when we are, when we question, or are critical of Israel in any way (this is how we’re labelled). All anybody that is pro-peace, pro-justice is saying here in our district and all over the country and the world, is that we want rights to be recognized for everybody. That’s all.”

Maali said that Newman was the target of a massive assault funded by pro-Israel critics who opposed her supporting justice for Palestine.

 

“I think we need to get the money out of politics. It shouldn’t be about who raises the most money. It should be about who represents the people the best,” Maali said, arguing there needs to be limits on how much money candidates can spend or receive from outside special interest PACs.

“Campaign reform. We absolutely need campaign reform. Every time you mail out a negative ad smearing a candidate, that is ($30,000) to $50,000. Most of the time it is not the candidates doing that. It is the PACs, the special interest PACs that are endorsing these candidates and are working on their behalf.”

As of June 8, 2022, three weeks before the election, Casten raised $3,112,950 and spent $2,572,280, while Newman raised $1,467,558 and spent $1,176,151, according to Open Secrets which monitors campaign funding.

In addition to media purchased by Casten, pro-Israel PACs spent $504,266 to attack Newman in TV ads and mailers and $154,517 to support Casten.

 

“The dark money exactly. That is exactly what is happening. And it is what’s happening to Marie every single day. We were getting, in my house, we were getting two to three ads smearing Marie to try to get her out,” Maali said.

“Why is the establishment working so hard to taint the name of somebody who is the third most prolific legislator in office out of the new freshman class?”

She emphasized: “It is completely about the money. It is so horrible because we are not on an equal footing.”

Newman is only one of a handful of the 435 members of the US House of Representatives who openly criticize Israel.

Maali concluded that it was her own Democratic Party that marginalized her in the election, leading to her defeat, and silencing a voice for peace and justice.

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington D.C. including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show podcast here.


Kuwait’s Ghanem stresses the world’s need for neutral third voice

Kuwait’s Ghanem stresses the world’s need for neutral third voice
Updated 30 June 2022

Kuwait’s Ghanem stresses the world’s need for neutral third voice

Kuwait’s Ghanem stresses the world’s need for neutral third voice
  • Ghanem cited Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories as a clear paradigm of the global failure to ensure mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty

BAKU: Kuwaiti National Assembly Speaker, Marzouq Al-Ghanem, said on Thursday that the world is in dire need of a principled neutral third voice calling for the application of law and justice in the face of risks worldwide, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported.

At the Parliamentary Network of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Conference in Baku, Ghanem stated that the fact that the Palestinian struggle remains unresolved is proof of the ongoing threats in various world regions.

Ghanem added that although NAM was founded 67 years ago, the problems that led to its inception persist, with the risk of a third world war looming.

Ghanem cited Palestine and the Zionist occupation of Palestinian territories as a clear paradigm in this regard, saying its continuation is a disgrace to both the past and present world orders.

He stressed that looking forward, a major challenge will be promoting a movement that is moderate and fair.

Ghanem also thanked Azerbaijan for overseeing the Non-Aligned Movement since it assumed the rotating presidency three years ago, as well as for all of its efforts during its term.

The conference, which began earlier this Thursday, brings together parliamentary delegations from over 40 countries, as well as representatives from nine international parliamentary organizations, to advance their roles in promoting global peace and sustainable development.


US tells pharmas to make Covid boosters targeting BA.4 and BA.5

US tells pharmas to make Covid boosters targeting BA.4 and BA.5
Updated 30 June 2022

US tells pharmas to make Covid boosters targeting BA.4 and BA.5

US tells pharmas to make Covid boosters targeting BA.4 and BA.5
  • A panel of medical experts convened by the agency voted in favor of updating Covid vaccines against Omicron
  • BA.4 and BA.5, which are more transmissible and immune evasive, now comprise more than 52 percent of US Covid cases

WASHINGTON: The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday told vaccine makers that Covid boosters for this fall and winter should include components targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 sub lineages of omicron.
Earlier this week, a panel of medical experts convened by the agency voted in favor of updating Covid vaccines against omicron, with most indicating they would favor shots that target the latest iterations rather than its original form, BA.1, fearing the latter would be too out-of-date.
BA.4 and BA.5, which are more transmissible and immune evasive, now comprise more than 52 percent of US Covid cases, according to an official tracker.
“We have advised manufacturers seeking to update their Covid-19 vaccines that they should develop modified vaccines that add an omicron BA.4/5 spike protein component to the current vaccine composition to create a two component (bivalent) booster vaccine,” the FDA said in a statement.
These vaccines would also need to target the original Wuhan strain, in order to increase the breadth of immune response.
Pfizer and Moderna, which produce messenger RNA Covid vaccines, have developed and tested vaccines against BA.1, and representatives of both companies indicated during the experts’ meeting they would need around three months to produce BA.4 and BA.5 vaccines at scale.
Pfizer shared early results showing its BA.4/5 vaccine produced a strong antibody response in mice, but it hasn’t yet been trialed in humans.
Novavax, which makes a protein subunit vaccine, said it could offer BA.4/5 vaccines by the end of the year.
The FDA said in its new statement that the companies would need to submit human data prior to authorization.
The “primary series” or first shots a person receives would remain against the original strain, the FDA added.
While previous “variants of concern” like Alpha and Delta eventually petered out, omicron and its sub lineages have dominated throughout 2022, to the point it comprises the vast majority of all Covid in the world, FDA official Jerry Weir told the expert meeting this week.
This makes it more likely that the virus’s future evolution will also occur along the omicron branch of the Covid family tree, he added.
Earlier this month, the World Health Organization also recommended the use of omicron boosters after a primary series against the original strain.


Muslim World League holds first conference of Asian ulama in Kuala Lumpur

Muslim World League holds first conference of Asian ulama in Kuala Lumpur
Updated 30 June 2022

Muslim World League holds first conference of Asian ulama in Kuala Lumpur

Muslim World League holds first conference of Asian ulama in Kuala Lumpur
  • More than 1,000 participants arrived from Saudi Arabia and 16 Asian countries
  • Conference was opened by Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob

KUALA LUMPUR: Participants from 17 countries gathered in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday for the first conference of Asian religious scholars organized in Malaysia by the Muslim World League to unite efforts addressing extremist ideologies.

The MWL is an international non-governmental Islamic organization founded in Saudi Arabia in 1962, that focuses on promoting and clarifying the worldwide understanding of Islam. It is headquartered in Makkah and maintains offices around the world.

More than 1,000 participants arrived from Saudi Arabia and countries including Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines.

The conference was opened by Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Malaysian Religious Affairs Minister Idris Ahmad and MWL Secretary-General Sheikh Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa.

“We feel proud and lucky that the MWL has chosen Malaysia to host the conference, which of course is a recognition to our country, which highlights Islam as a harmonious, safe and prosperous religion in a multi-racial and multi-religious society,” Yaakob said, adding that the meeting was taking place at a time when Muslims are still facing various challenges, including disputes among themselves, provocation, and Islamophobia.

The meeting will pave the way for the establishment in Kuala Lumpur a permanent council under the umbrella of the MWL.

Al-Issa said that the council’s first session was planned next year. The conference aims at developing educational tools and initiatives to foster collaboration and solidarity, especially among young and emerging leaders, to combat extremist ideology and what the MWL said in a statement were “artificial differences that sometimes exist” in politically diverse societies.

“With the efforts of the scholars, multi-pronged activities are being carried out to counter extremism in all parts of the world,” Al-Issa told Arab News on the sidelines of the conference. “We are hopeful that such efforts will bear fruits in due course and help wipe out extremism totally.”

He said that the MWL had chosen multiethnic Malaysia as it is “well known for its harmonious life.

“It is an ideal region for the propagation of harmony and peaceful coexistence among Muslims and non-Muslims,” he added.

“The attendance in large numbers bears eloquent testimony to the enthusiasm of the people and religious scholars to work towards peace, harmony, and coexistence.”