Ex-Iran Pres: Islamic World Ready for Change

The Islamic world is fed up with violence and extremism in the name of religion and is ready for an era of progressive, democratic Muslim governments, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said Friday.

Khatami said current conflicts between the West and Islam have created a situation that "can only see ever-escalating violence, whether in the form of war and occupation and repression, or in the form of terror and destruction."

"After about two centuries of dispute between tradition and modernity in the world of Islam (there is) a high level of mental preparation for the acceptance of a major transformation in the mind and lives of Muslims," Khatami said in a speech at an international conference on Islam and the West.

Khatami is a noted Islamic scholar whose moderate policies in religion and politics, especially his view of the U.S., were opposed by hard-liners in Iran. He was Iran's leader from 1997 until June, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an ultraconservative, became president.

The conference in Kuala Lumpur comes at a time when the Muslim world and the West are polarized following the publication of caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad by mostly European newspapers.

Khatami did not refer to the controversy in his speech, focusing instead on reforms in Islam and conflicts with the West.

He said a transformation in the Muslim world could pave the way for setting up "democratic governments that pursue national interests and create the grounds for achieving greater science and technology."

He said he envisioned "a new world that wants to understand and utilize religion in a way that it is not incompatible with freedom and progress."