He is one of the few serious and respected Muslim political leaders in the world today:
And the Americans are no doubt very pleased he is retiring soon after holding office for more than 20 years.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Malaysian Prime Minister has held office since 1981, making him Asia's longest serving head of government.
After 22 years in power, Mahathir is due to retire in October 2003.
Mahathir has overseen the transformation of Malaysia to one of Asia's richest countries, with a strong electronics export sector and the world's tallest buildings.
He is critical of what he called the endless wars of Europe and its colonies and argued that the response to the 11 September attacks marked a return to old ways of attacking Muslim countries and Muslims, whether or not they are guilty.
The Malaysian prime minister has also condemned the US-led war on Iraq and Afghanistan.
But he has also called on Muslim countries to embrace modernity.
In July, Dr Mahathir opened a global conference of Islamic scholars with the aim of countering misconceptions about Islam.
Mahathir in his own words
Asia's longest-serving elected leader, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, has never shied away from controversy.
The 77-year-old, who is due to hand over the premiership to a hand-picked successor later in 2003, has over the past 22 years frequently hit the headlines with his provocative remarks, drawing both condemnation and applause.
Below we list some of his most infamous comments.
On America's war on terror
If innocent people who died in the attack on Afghanistan and those who have been dying from lack of food and medical care in Iraq are considered collaterals, are the 3,000 who died in New York and the 200 in Bali also just collaterals whose deaths are necessary for operations to succeed?
Their strategy to fight terrorism is through attacking Muslim countries and Muslims, whether they are guilty or not.
This country stands out like a sore thumb trying to impose its European values in Asia as if it is the good old days when people can shoot aborigines without caring about human rights.
They are very clever, brave and have an insatiable curiosity... unfortunately they are also very greedy and like to take forcibly the territories and rights of other people.
The culture and the values which they will force us to accept will be hedonism, unlimited quest for pleasure, the satisfaction of base desires, particularly sexual desires. Our way of life must be the same as their way of life. Asian values do not exist to them.
The Jews for example are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively.
1970, the Malay Dilemma
Later, on the drop in the value of the Malaysian currency:
We are Muslims and the Jews are not happy to see Muslims' progress. We may suspect that they have an agenda but we do not want to accuse them... If viewed from Palestine, the Jews have robbed Palestinians of everything but they cannot do this in Malaysia, so they do this.
Disunited, confused about Islam, fighting each other for power and lacking in essential knowledge and skills... Muslims today have reached the lowest point of their development.
On gay British politicians
The British people accept homosexual ministers but if they ever come here bringing their boyfriend along, we will throw them out.
Malaysian PM condemns Iraq war
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has condemned the US-led war on Iraq, calling it the action of a "cowardly and imperialist" bully.
Dr Mahathir said Washington's decision to sideline the United Nations in its desire to depose Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had undermined world order and rendered both the UN and international law meaningless.
Correspondents say the US will be furious at Dr Mahathir's criticism. Only last year President George W Bush praised him as an ally in the international war on terrorism.
Dr Mahathir's comments came as protests against the war continued around the Asia-Pacific region.
Demonstrators took to the streets in Indonesia, Hong Kong and Vietnam over the weekend, and on Monday hundreds of anti-war protesters tried to storm the Australian parliament building.
'Black day in history'
Speaking at a debate in the Malaysian parliament on Monday, Dr Mahathir said military action in Iraq would lead to a system of dictatorship through puppet governments.
"It is a black day in history when a superpower with its allies attacks a country incapable of defending itself, much less threatening another country," Dr Mahathir said.
While the conflict was not a war between Christians and Muslims, he said, the US action was likely to lead to the spread of international terrorism.
"The world will not be safe. People will live in perpetual fear," he warned.
The US has also warned of possible retaliation to the war in Iraq.
On Sunday American citizens were advised to leave Indonesia due to what the US said was "credible information that extremist elements may be planning additional attacks" in response to the conflict.
But Indonesia has insisted that recent warnings by Western governments in their travel advisories gave a false impression of the terrorism threat.
"We are not going to doubt their obligations to protect their nationals," said foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natelagawa. "But we are concerned that the ... warnings give a skewed impression of what is really going on here."
Despite the conflict having started, anti-war protesters continued over the week end.
In the Indonesian capital Jakarta, the US embassy was again the focus of anger, with thousands of people congregating in protest against the war.
About 2,000 children held a rally in the Muslim stronghold of Pekalongan in central Java, while another 150 people protested in front of the US consulate on the island of Bali.
There were large-scale protests in many major Australian cities over the weekend, and on Monday hundreds of people tried to storm the parliament building.
Inside the building, Prime Minister John Howard was repeatedly heckled from the public gallery.
Mr Howard has been one of America's staunchest allies in its stance against Baghdad, and 2,000 Australian troops are participating in the US-led war.
But the prime minister has faced stiff opposition from the Australian public, many of whom are against the conflict.
Opinion polls are, however, swinging in Mr Howard's favour.
A poll commissioned last week found that 47% of respondents were against military action compared to 70% the previous week.
Story from BBC NEWS: