Malaysia's prime minister has urged intensified efforts to ease tensions and misunderstanding between Muslims and the west, warning that the gulf between the two has widened. Abdullah Badawi told a regional security conference in Kuala Lumpur the tensions posed the most urgent challenge to global security. 'This tension is perhaps the least understood of the present conflicts,' Mr Abdullah said, urging both cultures to examine their own stereotypes and prejudices. 'It is also one of the most distorted, because of the powerful emotions, prejudices and political interests that are brought to bear upon any discussion of the issue. 'Many of us live in each other's world ... We also often share the same world when we access the news, watch the movies and take part in sports. 'But it would be a blind person indeed who cannot see that despite all the bridges between them, the gulf between the west and the Muslim world has widened.' Mr Abdullah is the chairman of the Organisation of Islamic Conference, the main grouping of Muslim nations. He made the comments as he opened the week-long annual gathering of regional security analysts and diplomats organised by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Institute of Strategic and International Studies. He urged more formal and regular international discussions, and action to eradicate ignorance and stereotyping. He also warned of the west's double standards over Israel's nuclear weapons vis-a-vis Iran's, and warned that the plight of the Palestinian people risked degenerating into a 'humanitarian disaster'. Mr Abdullah urged the Muslim world - governments and civil societies - to condemn 'from every quarter' acts of terrorism. 'They should extend neither assistance nor provide sanctuary to terrorists,' he said. His remarks were followed by debate among prominent western and Asian experts. Islamabad-based scholar Shireen Mazari warned that Europe had to tackle its secular 'myth'. 'There is a growing sense of Muslims being singled out for targeting, attack and discrimination,' she said.