OIC or Munazamat al-Taauwun al-Islami | By Tariq Aqil 


OIC or Munazamat al-Taauwun al-Islami

THE OIC first met in Morocco in September 1969, a month after an arson attack inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque that destroyed part of the roof and the 800-year-old pulpit of Salahuddin Ayubi best known for recapturing Jerusalem from the Crusaders in the 12th century.

For the first time in History, the Muslim countries of the world banded together and laid the foundation of an organization for the greater good of the Muslim world in 1969 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

This was after a summit meeting of Muslim Head of States in 1969 and the meeting of the Muslim Foreign Ministers conference in 1970.

This organization has 57 members and some countries with significant Muslim populations such as Russia and Thailand sit as observer states. The collective population of OIC member countries is over 1.9 billion Plus as of 2016.

Pakistan will host the 17th extraordinary meeting of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, which has been convened by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, chair of the Islamic summit and OIC host country. This meeting will discuss the fast deteriorating human crisis in Afghanistan.

The Secretary General of the OIC, Hissin Brahim Taha, has underlined the importance of this emergency meeting that is likely to have positive results and will accelerate the relief of the Afghan people, end their suffering and provide urgent humanitarian assistance.

It is also expected that the question of recognition of the new Taliban regime in Kabul will also be debated to formulate a joint policy on this issue.

The Secretary General also stated that the OIC is closely following the developments in Afghanistan and that the OIC members are committed to working to advance the interests of the Afghan people, reject violence, maintain security, and ensure lasting peace to ensure dignified living and respect for their human rights and property.

The aims and objectives of the OIC are to promote Islamic solidarity by promoting social, cultural, economic and academic activities.

Projects launched so far under the banner of the OIC include International Islamic News Agency, the Islamic Development Bank, the Islamic Solidarity Fund and the World Centre for Islamic Education.

The OIC has been plagued with internal differences and conflicts within the member states and so far no common strategy has been formulated on any international or regional issue(s).

Many members of the OIC have already recognized Israel and are now actively promoting trade and political relations with the State of Israel.

Egypt was thrown out of the OIC in 1979 when Anwar Sadat signed an agreement, known as the Camp David Accord, with Israel.

Syria was suspended in 2012 after the crackdown on Arab Spring protestors and the subsequent civil war in that country.

Ironically Egypt and Syria are both frontline states in the bitter Arab-Israel conflict. Issues relating to Palestine and the Arab-Israel conflict have been central to the OIC agenda and summit discussion.

The OIC has continuously condemned Israel’s aggression against Palestine and has voiced its strong support for the establishment of an independent State of Palestine and most members of the OIC have no diplomatic relations with Israel but as of today member-states like the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain have already established diplomatic and trade relations with the Israel so there is no common strategy on this important issue.

The OIC mission statement calls itself “The Collective Voice of The Muslim World”. The organization has permanent delegations to the UN and the EU and its official languages are Arabic, English and French.

According to the Charter of the OIC it aims to preserve Islamic values, safeguard and defend the national sovereignty and independence of member-states and to contribute to international peace and harmony.

So far the OIC has promoted some cultural and educational projects but its political influence has been severely limited or even nonexistent. The combined political weight of the organization does not translate into action on the ground.

The OIC is supposed to have a unified voice but it does not because policies and political agendas of the member states are very different and divergent. The Muslim world is anything but united; there are severe differences on political issues and most member-countries are not democracies.

The Muslim world is largely ruled by monarchs, single party or military dictatorships. So, while their people may be in agreement over an issue they do not represent the views of their people.

The OIC has a broad spectrum of very different cultures and the members are divided on cultural, ethnic, sectarian and political lines. The OIC holds an Islamic Summit once every three years.

At the summit, heads of state discuss ways to achieve the Charter’s objectives and make policy decisions that concern its member states.

So far, the OIC has proved to be nothing but a debating club. Heads of government or Foreign Ministers meet for a discussion and some dinners and then go their respective ways without achieving anything concrete.

To make OIC relevant, it should be modelled on the pattern of EU with common policies on trade, immigration, common currency and political issues.

—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.

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