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Muslim leaders gather in Malaysia for summit shunned by Saudi

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Leaders and senior representatives from some 20 Muslim nations flocked to the Malaysian capital on Wednesday to discuss issues agitating Muslims globally at a summit Saudi Arabia decided to snub, and Pakistan ducked out of attending.

No agenda for the Kuala Lumpur Summit has been released, but it could address age-old disputes in Kashmir and the Middle East, the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, the plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority, and mounting outrage over China’s camps for Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang - a subject that will doubtless upset Beijing - as well as how to counter the spread of Islamophobia in the world.

Two of the world’s most outspoken leaders, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan will be giving their views during the four-day summit, which begins with a welcome dinner on Wednesday and wraps up on Saturday.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, who along with Mahathir and Erdogan had been a prime mover behind the summit, made a belated decision to skip the meeting.

Some Pakistani officials, unnamed because they are not authorised to speak to the media, said Khan pulled out under pressure from close ally Saudi Arabia, though media reports say his officials deny that was the reason why the world’s second largest Muslim country won’t be represented.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamid Al-Thani, whose countries have tense relations with Saudi Arabia, are also attending.

Explaining its decision to stay away, Saudi Arabia said the summit was the wrong forum for matters of importance to the world’s 1.75 billion Muslims, though some analysts suspected the Kingdom feared being diplomatically isolated by regional rivals Iran, Qatar and Turkey.

Saudi state news agency SPA reported that on a call with Mahathir on Tuesday, Saudi King Salman reaffirmed that such issues should be discussed through the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

A Saudi source said Saudi Arabia was invited but would only attend it the meeting was held under the auspices of the OIC.
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