OIC: Confronting the challenges

Saman Zulfqar

THE recently held OIC summit while focusing on its main theme “Unity and Solidarity for Justice and Peace” recognized peace and justice as a precondition for establishing unity and solidarity. OIC being the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations has 57 member states spreading over four continents. It is the largest organization having Muslim states as its members. The summit is convened every three years to review and analyse political, economic and social developments in international relations and its impact on Muslim Ummah.
The agenda of the summit among other issues included the Palestinian issue based on broader Arab-Israel conflict, problems faced by Muslim world, combating terrorism and extremism, Islamophobia and OIC-2025 Programme of Action. A look at the agenda issues shows that all these issues relate to present day challenges face by Muslim world. There are numerous issues that OIC member states have been facing and almost all are of common interests such as Palestine issue due to which the OIC was initially established in 1969, problems faced by Muslim minorities and Islamophobia.
The unresolved Palestine issue has been at the heart of unrest and disorder in the Middle East. It not only affects inter-state relations between Arab states and Israel but the indifference of major powers in the just resolution of the conflict and the duplicity regarding their policies in Middle East have been the contributing factor in creating extremism and radicalism in Arab societies. It is noteworthy that extremism and radicalism has not been the issue of Middle Eastern societies, it is issue of all Muslim states where deprivation and injustice at home provides a breeding ground for extremism. Corruption of ruling elite creates a sense of alienation and estrangement mostly in African and Asian countries.
The root causes of extremism and radicalism are different and the efforts to tackle these threats need to address the causes of the problems. In this regard, the OIC member states require developing two-pronged strategy at national as well as organizational and inter-governmental level. Strategy at national level must address the diverse socio-economic and political conditions of each state while the strategy at organizational and inter-governmental level should be formulated by consensus keeping in view the broader challenging environment faced by Muslim world. This consensus based strategy can be evolved by developing academic as well as intellectual discourse. As for as terrorism is concerned, it is closely related and linked to extremism and radicalism that ultimately gives rise to terrorism. The issue of terrorism cannot be tackled unless injustice and problems related to socio-economic deprivation could be resolved and the causes of extremism are addressed.
Another important and related problem has been the rise of Islamophobia in the West. Islamophobia can be defined as hostility towards Muslims and Islam in general. The term Islamophobia was coined in early 1990s in Europe basically due to differences regarding religion, faith and identity between Islam and other religions. The term got currency in the Western societies in the backdrop of Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations thesis. Islamophobia as a term has been frequently used in recent years in the context of Islamic extremism and terrorism. There is need to initiate inter-faith dialogue to remove misperceptions and misunderstandings about religious beliefs and teachings of Islam or perhaps the most important point has been the true interpretations of religion as no religion teaches violence and terrorism.
It is pertinent to note here that all these are trans-national threats and no single country alone can deal with them, therefore, there is need to build consensus based strategy at OIC platform. Unity and solidarity have been identified as the desired goals but achieving unity among 57 Muslim states is the daunting task. If we look at the map of Muslim world, we see that sectarian conflicts, civil wars and competition for power and resources have been the defining factors in inter-state relations. Creating unity among Muslim states can only be possible when they would agree on common agenda by trying to bridge the gulf between states and societies on the one hand and by setting and agreeing on common goals on the other hand.
— The writer is a Researcher at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute.

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