(It is frustrating that 57 Muslim countries, in possession of 70 percent of the world energy resources and 40 percent of the available raw material, should record only 5 percent of the world GDP. The failure of the Muslim world to embrace modern technology and spread education is obvious with only 500 PhDs being produced annually as compared to 3,000 in India and 5,000 in the UK. Although most Muslim countries gained independence from their colonial masters only after World War II, an organization like the Organization of Islamic Conference, created in 1969, has the potential of providing them the right leadership in their collective perception, only if it is restructured in accordance with the present challenges. – Editor)
The decline of Muslim power and prestige after World War II accompanied by the agony caused by the creation of the state of Israel on Palestinian lands inspired Muslim intellectuals and scholars to appeal for the creation of an institution to identify the malaise afflicting the Islamic world and to seek strength through unity and solidarity among Muslim ranks.
Earlier, visionaries like Iqbal, Jamaludin Afghani and religious scholars such as Syed Qutub and Hasan Al-Banna had fired the Muslim imagination with precepts and schemes supported by Quranic injunctions as a panacea to the problems besetting the ummah (Muslim community). However, ethnic differences, varied historical experiences, political polarization and, above all, differing idealistic impulses rendered them mere pious dreams.
Historically, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) symbolizes the first tangible evidence of the yearning for Islamic unity. It came into existence in response to the arson by Zionists in August 1969 of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem – the first qibla (direction of prayer) of the Muslims and their third holiest shrine. Twenty-five Muslim states participated in a summit convened by King Hasan of Morocco in 1969. The outcome of the Rabat Summit was the establishment of the OIC. Today, the organization has 57 members.
The initial mandate of the OIC was to liberate Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa from Zionist occupation. It’s Charter, adopted on 27 February 1970 stressed Islamic solidarity, strengthening of cooperation in the political, economic, social, cultural and scientific fields and support for all Muslim peoples to safeguard their dignity, independence and national rights.
To achieve these objectives and coordinate its actions, a secretariat was set up in Jeddah and a number of committees were established to promote and accelerate cooperation in diverse fields – political, economic, social and scientific. It was further decided that OIC heads of states/governments would meet every three years to consider plans and proposals for strengthening ties among member states and to coordinate their response to contemporary developments, while preserving their individual political and cultural identities.
The OIC Charter
The OIC Charter, approved in March 1972, included a commitment to act through all means, both political and military, for the liberation of the Holy City of Al-Quds from Zionist occupation. It also reiterated the Islamic states’ resolve to act in unison for the establishment of world peace, and reaffirmed their commitment to the United Nation’s charter and to fundamental human rights. The OIC Charter was registered at the United Nations on 1 February 1974.
The main objectives of the Charter were to:
- Strengthen :
- Islamic solidarity among Member States.
- Cooperation in the political, economic, social, cultural and scientific fields.
- The struggle of all Muslim people to safeguard their dignity, independence and national rights.
- Coordinate action to:
- Safeguard Islamic Holy Places.
- Support the struggle of the Palestinian people and assist them in recovering their rights and liberating their occupied territory.
- Work to:
- Eliminate racial discrimination and all forms of colonialism.
- Create a favourable atmosphere for the promotion of cooperation and understanding between Member States and other countries.
The Charter also enumerates the principles governing OIC activities, namely:
- Full equality among Member States.
- Support for the right to self determination and non-interference in the internal affairs of Member States.
- Support for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of each State.
- The settlement of any dispute that might arise among Member States by peaceful means such as negotiations, mediation, conciliation and arbitration.
- A pledge to refrain, in relations among Member States, from resorting to force or threatening to resort to the use of force against the unity and territorial integrity or the political independence of any one of them.
Main Bodies and Committees
The OIC is composed of two main bodies:
- The Conference of Kings and Heads of State and Government, which is the supreme authority of the Organization which meets once every three years to lay down the Organization’s policy; and
- The Conference of Foreign Ministers, which meets once a year to examine progress on the implementation of its decisions taken within the framework of the policy defined by the Islamic Summit.
The OIC set up a number of committees to ensure the coordination of its activities and the attainment of optimal results in all fields of political, economic, social, scientific and intellectual cooperation. The main committees include the Al Quds, the Standing Committee for Information and Cultural Affairs, Committee for Economic and Trade Cooperation and Scientific and Technological Cooperation. Fifteen of the committees are concerned with various political issues, such as Palestine, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, etc. The others relate to cultural, scientific, economic, legal, financial, technical, educational, informational, social and human affairs institutions. Their headquarters have been distributed among the various Islamic capitals.
It has been stated above that the creation of the OIC at the Rabat Summit was primarily in response to the situation created by the sacrilege of Al Quds. Hence, the resolution adopted on 25 September 1969 while reaffirming the fraternal and spiritual bonds existing between their peoples, declared “full support to the Palestinian people for the restitution of their rights and in their struggle for national liberation.” It asked the international community to “secure the speedy withdrawal of Israeli military forces from all the territories occupied as a result of the war of June 1967.”
Organizational issues occupied the next few years. The OIC’s Secretariat was set up in March 1970 and two years later, its Charter was approved (in March 1972). Subsequent developments in the Middle East, particularly the Ramadan War of October 1973, forced the OIC to embrace all issues relating to the ummah and to broaden its canvas of activities. The October 1973 war had not only restored the pride of Arabs but oil diplomacy had forced the European nations to take a second look at their pro-Israel policies. It was against this background that the second summit was held in Lahore in February 1974.
The Lahore Summit was a landmark in the political struggle of Muslims to secure an influential role in international affairs. The leadership provided by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the presence of Arab leaders like King Faisal, Sadat, Qaddafi, Boumedienne, and Arafat, among 37 heads of states/governments participating in the Summit, conferred on it a unique importance. The Summit decided to address the following issues:
- eradication of poverty, disease and ignorance from Islamic countries;
- regulation of the terms of trade between developed countries and developing Muslim countries especially the supply of raw materials and import of manufactured goods and know-how;
- ensuring the sovereignty and full control of developing countries over their natural resources; and
- mutual economic cooperation and solidarity among Muslim countries.
It was also decided to establish a committee of eight countries, including Pakistan, to devise ways and means for attainment of these objectives.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was recognized as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinians and it was declared that “the Arab cause is the cause of all countries which oppose aggression and will not tolerate that the use of force be rewarded by territory or by other gains.”
The OIC has, till now, held 10 summits interspersed at regular three-year intervals and numerous meetings at the ministerial and expert levels to oversee summit decisions. Unfortunately, these summits have been characterized more by empty rhetoric rather than concrete action. Through the years, the configuration of political and economic forces in international affairs has rendered the Muslim states more vulnerable and their leaders increasingly dependent on the U.S. for their survival. This has emasculated the OIC and weighed heavily on its decisions. Its leaders find themselves in a quandary. They are unable or unwilling to exert any meaningful pressure on the US-led west, regarded as allies of Israel, to mitigate the hardships of the Muslim people living in the occupied territories.
The mid-70s were the unprecedented but short-lived years of Arab ascendancy and prestige. The diplomatic influence and political clout of the Arab countries was in evidence with dramatic triumphs in the U.N. Arabic was accepted as one of the official UN languages. The General Assembly recognized the Palestinian people as “the principal party to the question of Palestine.” Arafat was invited to address the General Assembly on 13 November 1974 and the PLO was given observer status at the U.N. In the same year, the UNGA established a Committee on “the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.” Thus, the Palestinian issue was placed in focus, drawing increasing international attention and support.
The Arab achievements in the U.N. were crowned with the adoption of UNGA Resolution 3379 of 10 November 1975 by which the General Assembly “determined that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” The Resolution was adopted with 72 in favour, 35 against and 32 abstentions. With Zionism as its ideology, the reaction in Israel was severe and it campaigned hard to have the resolution annulled. The opportunity came in 1991. Israel, with the encouragement of the U.S. and European states, declared its intention to get 3379 revoked. The OIC Summit held in Senegal in August 1991 took note of these efforts and passed a unanimous resolution to defeat Israeli efforts in the U.N. by voting for the continuation of 3379.
The Israeli resolution, when moved in the UNGA after a couple of weeks, was carried and the majority of OIC member states either abstained or voted for the resolution. This was illustrative of the hypocrisy of Muslim potentates of playing to the domestic gallery while keeping the U.S. in good humour.
Since the establishment of the OIC, the Islamic world has suffered five major catastrophes, which have reduced it to almost a non-factor in international politics. The break up of Pakistan through armed intervention by India in 1971, the invasion of Lebanon by Israel in 1982 that led to yet another Palestinian diaspora, the Iran-Iraq war, the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and the US occupation of Iraq have dealt a crippling blow to the unity, dignity and image of the Muslim world.
The OIC failed to respond meaningfully to any of these crises or demonstrate unity other than issuing high-sounding declarations at the end of each summit. In some cases, the OIC even remained a silent spectator.
This attitude not only disappointed Muslims around the world, but also encouraged the Organization’s adversaries to pursue their designs against Muslim countries with impunity. The history of the Palestine problem, ostensibly the raison d’être of the OIC, is a living testimony to the impotence and paralysis of the Organisation. The Palestine issue is now no longer seen as the vacation of the occupied territories by Israel and restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinians, but has been re-designated as a struggle between terrorists (Palestinians) and civilians (Israelis). The creeping annexation has eroded all possibilities of any settlement as Israeli policies have completely marginalised the Palestinians.
The OIC also espoused the Kashmir and Afghanistan issues, but failed to play any important or significant role in their resolution. The gathering of potentates at OIC summits and their empty calls for unity of action initially stirred Muslim hearts, but soon it became obvious that these speeches, laced with rhetoric and insincere sentiments, were meaningless and of no use for confronting the challenges faced by the Islamic ummah.
On the Kashmir issue, the OIC has failed to muster the courage to challenge New Delhi’s policies of repression and widespread violation of human rights in Indian-held Kashmir. The inaction and indifference on Israeli massacres in Sabra and Shattila (Beirut 1982), in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992) and the recent US military intervention and brutalities in Iraq and Afghanistan have, many believe, rendered the OIC totally irrelevant to the needs and requirements of ummah. The resolutions adopted by the OIC thus betray a lack of seriousness and sincerity and hence carry no meaning or significance, thereby accentuating the frustration of the ummah.
The underlying causes of the inability of the OIC to be reckoned with as an institution of political significance in global affairs, besides the lack of political will of Muslim leaders, have originated from a lack of democratic set-up in those states, in addition to structural weaknesses, such as an absence of an institutional framework, poverty and illiteracy, and failure to recognize the absolute importance of science and technology for social emancipation and economic development.
10th Summit – Kuala Lampur
The last OIC summit held in Putrajaya, Malaysia in 2003 was a milestone in the history of the OIC. Under the dynamic leadership of then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, the leaders decided to make a realistic appraisal of the international situation and the role that the OIC could play to preserve and protect the interests of member-states against a sustained negative media campaign and political pressures circumscribing their economic and political rights. It was decided to dispassionately analyse the causes of decline and decay of Muslim societies and the political marginalization of the member-states, and evolve a comprehensive strategy to pull them out of this morass.
President Musharraf, who led the Pakistan delegation to the 10th summit in Malaysia, gave a clarion call to all Muslims in support of Mahathir’s appeal. In a stirring message, President Musharraf outlined the existing realities. He referred to turbulent and troubled international developments. “The world is in turmoil. Reliance on military action and force define solutions to world disputes. Foreign occupation persists. Suppression of peoples has intensified. Power asymmetries are widening. Terrorism is taking its toll. Economic recession threatens the world fabric. Poverty is growing. Inequality is increasing.”
In the context of this world view, President Musharraf warned that the Muslim world was in the vortex of this emerging global crisis. Most of those under foreign occupation were Muslim peoples. He cited the tragedies of Palestine and Kashmir. “Islamic nations are perceived as the sponsors of terrorism and proliferators of WMDs. Muslims are subjected to discrimination and exclusion. The insidious thesis of an inevitable clash of civilizations between Islam and the West is being openly propounded.”5
Making this bold and frank analysis of ground realities and the political climate, he urged some soul-searching and stock-taking by the Muslim countries since he believed that the crisis confronting the Islamic world was both external and internal. “It is rooted in our own weaknesses and vulnerabilities. It flows from our economic, social and human underdevelopment, from dependencies and vulnerabilities, from the divisions and differences within, and amongst our societies and nests.”
Musharraf’s diagnosis of Islamic inertia and weaknesses touched the hearts of all participants. His message that “we are at a defining moment in history. We can either seize the moment and define history, or we can let the moment define our destiny. We must turn challenge into opportunity,” created a strong resonance in the Muslim capitals.
The 10th Summit accordingly asked the Chairman to constitute an OIC Commission of Eminent Persons (CEP) in order to finalize recommendations on the following three areas: i) to prepare a strategy and plan of action enabling the Islamic umma to meet the challenges of the 21st century; (ii) to prepare a comprehensive plan for promotion universally and in particular, within Islamic societies, policies and programmes for promoting enlightened moderation; (iii) to prepare recommendations for reform and restructuring of the OIC system.
The CEP held three sessions and prepared detailed recommendations which were approved by the ICFM meeting in Sa’na (Yemen) in May 2005, and submitted to the Makkah Summit.
The recommendations consisted of three parts: (i) challenges of the 21st century (ii) policies and programmes for promoting enlightened moderation, and (iii) OIC reform and restructuring. The recommendations to meet the political challenge of the 21st century relate to good governance, transparency and accountability, strengthening democracy, civil society, political participation and respect for human rights.6
Challenges of the 21st Century
Political Recommendations of the CEP
- Continued marginalization of the Ummah in influencing and setting the international agenda;
- Widening gap between the ruler and the ruled in Muslim societies that have ramifications on politics, economy and culture of the Ummah;
- Inability of the Muslim countries to practice good governance and transparency.
- Emulate and implement universal good practices including combating corruption, and promoting accountability and transparency in the public and private sector;
- Study good practices among OIC members on governance including ways of promoting capacity building among less developed OIC countries;
- Strengthen democracy, civil society, political participation and respect for human rights;
- Increase activity of member states in the UN and other organizations;
- Support candidates of member countries to positions in international organizations;
- Increase activity in the UN reform process including endeavors to seek adequate representation in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC);
- More proactive coordination to promote the just causes of the occupied Muslim peoples;
- Improve the situation of Muslim communities/minorities outside OIC membership;
- Draw up a plan for OIC unity to gradually integrate in the future like other regional entities which could enable Ummah to meet the challenges and demands of globalization in the 21st century.
- Conflict within and among Muslim nations.
- Foreign occupation of Muslim lands.
- Tensions arising from Muslim minority status in a number of countries.
- Extremist tendencies due to feelings of injustice, hopelessness and desperation.
- Promote Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) and develop a system of collective security that all Muslim countries could bind themselves together internationally to avoid border disputes and conflict;
- Reactivate the decision to establish an Islamic Court of Justice.
- Check the tendency of a fringe within the Ummah to resort to terrorism and violence through various means, including:
- Persuading the big powers to address the root causes of terrorism and intensifying coordination within OIC for combating terrorism; and
- Encouraging interpretations of Islam which emphasize peace and non violence and popularizing principles or programmes which promote a balanced, contemporary comprehensive and inclusive Islamic civilization.
- Failure to promote and implement sustainable development policies in the OIC world;
- Failure to eradicate poverty, corruption, disease, and the lack of basic rights and the provision of basic needs;
- Failure to develop strong economic cooperation despite vast natural and human resources;
- Globalization and the need to deal with its negative effects.
- Address poverty eradication through measures such as capacity building, micro credit schemes, small and medium enterprises and land reform among other programmes;
- Promote economic cooperation and coordination among member countries to enable them to plan and sustainably manage their environment and natural resources efficiently, leading eventually to greater economic integration;
- Sign and ratify all existing intra-OIG trade and economic agreements;
- Encourage economic regional integration and development through free trade agreements, customs unions, common markets and other activities aimed at enhancing intra OIG trade and development;
- Promote endeavors for institutionalized cooperation between OIG and UN Islamic Development Bank, World Bank, World Trade Organization, G-8;
- Secretary General should be a member of the board of governors of the lDB.
EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
- Low level of contribution towards science and technology, especially in the area of research and development;
- Lack of quality education and other flaws in the educational system;
- Failure to generate creative and innovative ideas.
- Increase budgetary allocation substantially, to provide quality education and enhance research and development;
- Encourage private sector to contribute to research and development;
- Establish a consortium for higher education to promote scientific research and provide academic opportunities, inter alia, for those Muslim students who cannot pursue higher education in western institutions due to difficulties arising after the events of 9/11;
- Enhance exchanges of technologies among OIC countries;
- Strengthen COMSTECH institutionally and financially;
- Encourage creative, innovative and critical thinking within the education system;
- OIC to develop standard high school curriculum in order to remove all prejudices about each other and the Secretary General to approach the western countries to remove the bias against Islam and Muslims from their curricula;
- Special initiatives for women education and female literacy;
- Modernization of curricula of religious schools.
Misrepresentation and negative stereotyping of Islam and the Muslim Ummah.
- Strengthen understanding and interpretation of the Muslim faith and religion to improve its image and understanding by others;
- Consider an appropriate media strategy including the engagement of professional entities to improve the image of Islam and Muslims in the west and other parts of non Muslim world;
- Establish a working relationship and better coordination between the Information Department of the OIC and national media of Member States.
OIC REFORM AND RESTRUCTURE
- Structural flaws and lack of political will within the OIC
- Inability of the OIC as an Islamic organization to prove its relevance in today’s world and the need to rejuvenate it;
- Inability of the OIC to implement the resolutions agreed upon;
- Inability to implement agreed programmes due to lack of funding.
- OIC must be restructured, reformed and revitalized including necessary changes in OIC charter and its name;
- Maintenance of criteria for membership to preserve and promote its Islamic character;
Office of the Secretary General
- OIC Secretary General’s role should both be strengthened and fully supported. He should be given the full authority both to employ and terminate the services of OIG personnel including restructuring existing departments.
- OIC General Secretariat should recruit officials on merit, nominated by those Member States, which make regular contributions and should be offered attractive financial incentives;
- The Secretary General could consider appointing his Special Representatives both for fact finding as well as resolution of conflicts/disputes;
- OIC’s relations with important international / regional organizations should be strengthened and fully utilized to actively voice all Muslim causes
- The OIC should renew its emphasis on issues such as conflict resolution; inter-faith dialogue; human rights; democracy; good governance and combating Islamophobia, etc.
- The OIC General Secretariat should enhance the capacity of the General Secretariat through restructuring to deal effectively with subjects such as, Islamic thought; enlightened moderation, higher education with a focus on science and technology, health care and women’s development;
- Therefore, the OIC General Secretariat would establish departments of Conflict Resolution, Enlightened Moderation, Women Development, NGOs and Muslim Minorities and a Strategic Planning Unit, and Consortium of Higher Education;
- An OIC think tank to promote Islamic thought to respond effectively to ideological and intellectual challenges of the 21 Century and to interact more proactively with universities and intellectuals in the West. Members of the think tank should also include personalities who have expert knowledge of the problems of Muslim communities in their particular regions and countries.
Restructuring of Existing Departments
- Restructuring of Dawa department and establish Dawa and Islamophobia department;
- IINA should be activated for projection of OIC position;
- A strong Information Department at the OIC Secretariat should be established to assist the OIC Secretary General for projection of OIC and updating of the OIC website;
- Strengthening the Department of Palestine and Jerusalem in the light of new OIC vision.
Implementation of Resolutions
- Member States must demonstrate strong political commitment and provide the requisite financial backing to implement Summit and Ministerial resolutions, within specified time frame.
- An executive body, comprising Summit and Ministerial Troikas, the OIC host country and the Secretary General, should be expeditiously established to implement Summit and Ministerial resolutions. The concerned Member States should be invited to participate in the deliberations of these meetings.
- A Council of Permanent Representatives of OIC member states in Jeddah should be established for an effective coordination, implementation and follow – up.
On security issues, the commission has recommended the establishment of an Islamic court of justice, a system of collective security and intensifying coordination among OIC states for combating terrorism. On the economic front, the recommendations focus on addressing poverty alleviation, promoting economic cooperation, encouraging economic regional integration and development through free trade agreements, customs unions, common markets and institutionalized cooperation between the OIC and the UN, the Islamic Development Bank, the World Bank, the WTO and G-8.
The challenges of science and technology are to be met by increasing budgetary allocation for education, the establishment of a consortium for higher education to promote scientific research and exchanges of technologies among OIC members.
The recommendations in respect of policies and programmes constitute a roadmap for the revitalization of the OIC, and cover a very wide range of human activity, but the main emphasis is on the promotion of a comprehensive, civilizational and contemporary approach in the development of Muslim societies, enabling Muslims to shape their destiny.7
The structural weakness of the OIC received a fair number of recommendations, with emphasis on reform and the empowerment of the secretariat. The need for conflict-resolution, interfaith dialogue and capacity building of the secretariat through setting up a think-tank for preparing Muslims to meet ideological and intellectual changes also received priority. These recommendations became the priority agenda in the Makkah Summit, which adopted most of them in the form of a 10-year plan for the political, economic and cultural revival of Muslim societies.
These recommendations of the CEP were submitted to an extraordinary summit held in Makkah on December 9, 2005. The summit was convened at the initiative of King Abdullah to address the global changes and challenges confronting Muslim countries and examine the relevance and practicality of the recommendations by the CEP.8
The last summit held in Putrajaya in 2003 had deliberated on the role of the Muslim world in international affairs which all agreed was only marginal. Muslims across the world were in a state of disunity and discord, believing that their religion was the target of Western hostility and had become identified with fanaticism, even terrorism.
These feelings were shared by all Muslim leaders, expressed most eloquently by King Abdullah. “It bleeds the heart of a believer to see how this glorious civilization has fallen from the heights of glory to the ravine of frailty, and how its targets were hijacked by devilish and criminal gangs that spread havoc on earth.”
The summit was seen as a turning point in the OIC’s history, as it also addressed the issues of restructuring, reform and redefinition of the OIC mission, charter and objectives.9
The mood and expectations of Muslim leaders gathered in Makkah were best articulated by Pakistan. President Musharraf urged the summit participants to work out a strategy for Islamic revival and renaissance, adopt a conciliatory course in the interest of progress and prosperity of Muslims and pursue policies to face formidable challenges on all fronts, in particular share the expanding frontiers of knowledge, education, science and technology.
He underscored the need for establishing a network of centres of excellence in science and technology in the Muslim world. He sounded a note of caution: “The challenge is indeed enormous, but ‘failure is not an option.”
In the backdrop of these assessments and expectations, the result and outcome of the Makkah summit has failed to meet the high hopes vested in it. Indeed in many respects, it has generated disappointment, owing to its failure to take a balanced view of the world situation. While too much emphasis was laid on fighting extremism and terrorism, the summit failed to comment on the presence of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Nor did it express support and solidarity to Iran and Syria, both under severe pressure and threats of invasion by the US. The absence of major Muslim leaders – President Bashan Asad of Syria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, for instance – robbed the summit of its luster.
The Makkah declaration reviewed the status of the member states in the contemporary world, acknowledging the “dire need of a fresh vision to turn the tide,” and called for “collective will” and “joint Islamic action.” The “10-year-programme of action” to face the challenges of the Muslim people in the 21st century proposed a wide range of reforms, initiatives and proposals to address the multifarious problems confronting the Ummah.
The Summit proposed the establishment of a free trade zone for the member-states and welcomed the formation of an Islamic international institution to finance commerce and called for increasing the capital of the Islamic Bank. The Summit urged that the member-states should allocate resources to preserve the Al Aqsa mosque, support Palestinian institutions and establish the Al Aqsa University in Al Quds.
The meeting renewed its approval of the Sudanese peace agreement and the resolution issued by the 10th OIC conference to establish a fund for reconstruction activities in Sudan. It proposed establishing an independent “Islamic human rights institution” to monitor the rights situation in OIC member states.
The summit further stressed the importance of fighting poverty, unemployment and disease by forming a specialized fund through the Islamic Bank. It decided to take steps towards developing science and technology and to narrow the gap between the Muslim nations and developed countries.
The Makkah summit was heralded as a defining moment for collective efforts and resolve, but judging by its decisions, such a verdict would be highly exaggerated. The basic requirements to make Organization of Islamic Conference a living and dynamic instrument of restructuring and a new charter reflecting current realities have been postponed until the next summit to be held in Senegal.
Pakistan’s Role in the OIC
Pakistan, with its legacy rooted in the Islamic faith and its consistent support of Muslim causes, as well as in response to the overwhelming public support for the cause of liberation of Al-Quds Al-Sharif, became a founding member of the OIC in 1969.
Relations with the Islamic world are the corner stone of the foreign policy of Pakistan. As a founding member of the OIC, Pakistan has an abiding commitment to the purposes, principles and objectives of its Charter. Pakistan has played an important role in strengthening cooperation among Muslim states by its active participation in the programmes and activities of the OIC. The efforts by Pakistan have received due acknowledgment in the OIC signified by its membership of all key Standing Committees, subsidiary organs and specialized agencies of the OIC. Pakistan is also a key member of the OIC Contact Groups/Ad-hoc Committees on critical issues of the Islamic world – Palestine, Afghanistan, Jammu & Kashmir, and Somalia.10
Pakistan is the Chairman of the OIC Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) which has its Headquarters in Islamabad. Pakistan also hosts the Secretariat of the Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), which is located in Karachi.
Pakistan has been the forefront of efforts for comprehensive and drastic changes in the mandate of the OIC and has made a number of pragmatic proposals and strategies to overcome the deficiencies and inherent weaknesses of the organization. The strategy based on the analyses of prevailing world situation ran along these lines.
Pakistan has consistently supported the idea that the OIC first play an effective role in ensuring welfare of the Islamic Ummah. In the same spirit, the President of Pakistan proposed the solution at the 10th Islamic Summit on Islam and the Muslim World in the 21st Century – the Path of Enlightened Moderation.
Pakistan has been consulting the OIC Secretary General and other brotherly Muslim states to workout some strategy to realize the objectives of Pakistan’s Resolution on Enlightened Moderation. Pakistan also held a National Seminar on the OIC to solicit the opinions of Islamic scholars, prominent citizens, notable academicians and well-respected parliamentarians.
The main aim was to discuss and create an understanding of the whole issue in order to promote a consensus around the themes of Enlightened Moderation, reforms of the OIC, and the challenges facing the Islamic Ummah in the 21st Century, so that responses can be generated to surmount contemporary and pressing challenges and to take advantage of the existing and potential opportunities.
After the tragic events of 9/11, the world has become dangerous and volatile. The situation has been further exacerbated by the widening gulf between Islam and the West, giving rise to apprehensions about a clash of civilizations.
There are misperceptions in the West about Islam, which is being seen as a faith propagating terrorism and extremism, bent upon striking at Western values. On the other hand, many Muslims believe that the West is demonizing their religion. They distrust the West because of its policies towards Muslims smarting under foreign occupation and alien domination.
The Ummah is in a state of siege, gripped by ignorance and despondency, hopelessness and apathy, disarray and discord. The Islamic countries need to focus on two-fold responsibilities, the first to emancipate the downtrodden people from abject poverty and social underdevelopment, and the second to make the world a better place for future generations.
The diversity of the member states worked both as the OIC’s strength and weakness in terms of realization of its objectives. No serious attempt has been made to create regional economic hubs and develop them through a viable trade growth strategy under mechanism such as Custom Union or Trade Free Zone. Ideally, the 57 OIC countries could have been operationally divided into five or six regional blocs, structured and designed on the basis of geography and economic considerations, eventually to be integrated into one single Islamic block.
Contemporary World Scene
The challenges that face the Ummah were articulated in the analysis and statements of Pakistani leadership at the OIC forum: “A far reaching transformation is currently underway in international relations. New threats including nuclear proliferation, terrorism and extremism as well as the increased use of unilateralism have compouned the earlier threats arising from poverty, underdevelopment, territorial disputes, decolonization and denial of justice. The Muslim Ummah is caught in the vortex of this upheaval. A new relationship between Muslims and the West built on mutual respect, tolerance and understanding needs to be evolved to effectively deal with these new and old threats.
The virtual marginalization of Islamic countries at the global level constitutes the foremost challenge. Even those Islamic sates which had been endowed with vast natural resources have been unable to transform these assets to gain corresponding political weight and stature. On the contrary, they are under threat of economic isolation and social ferment.
In today’s globalized world, economic strength determines the status and portion of a bloc or a country in the comity of nations. Without economic strength, the Ummah would remain vulnerable to external manipulation.
The OIC’s share in global trade is barely 6-7% and their collective GDP amounts to a meager 5% of the world GDP. Similarly, the human development indicator of the OIC countries are among the lowest in the world. The inadequate weightage of the Muslims at the international level despite the fact that they represent 1/5th of the world’s population, possess 70% of the world’s energy resources, and 40% of the global availability of raw material, is shameful.
President Musharraf made a fervent appeal to the Islamic World to seize the moment and realize the promise of a glorious destiny. The challenges facing Muslims today look formidable but can and should be dealt with collectively and comprehensively. Our perpetual dependence on other nations is the reason for our endemic under development.
We should prioritize economic growth targets and pursue poverty eradication through mutual financial and investment support. The Member States would need to follow a road map that envisages benchmarks and a time line in consonance with the MDGs. In recognition of the demands of contemporary reality a necessary shift in our focus from geo-strategic to geo-economic perspectives is required.
The OIC countries must begin focused efforts to ensure poverty eradiation, human development, higher education, scientific and technological development and sustained economic growth without which the dream of peace and prosperity within our socities will remain elusive. This can be done because we have the human and material resources.11
We must realize that we have to depend on ourselves to changes our destiny. We must create interdependence, learning from each other’s best practices and using the strength of one to overcome the weakness of the other. Pakistan also proposed a number of suggestions to revitalize the OIC both in its philosophy and at the operational level, which are summarized below:
Proposals for Restructuring
- The OIC must be enabled to respond to multifarious and multifaceted challenges, from globalization to Western countries power politics. Necessary institutions such as conflict prevention between members should be created.
- The OIC must assess the security threats and developments that could have a bearing on their economic well being.
- Pan Islamic cooperation must commence with low=key areas, such as education, technology and defense production where member states are not required to make “big sacrifices.” Regional economic and cultural networking could provide foundation for intra-regional cooperation and realize the ambitious goals such as Islamic Common Market or common currency. Relevant models such as EU could be studied for fine tuning OIC strategies.
- The failure of the key institutions such as COMSTECH (Science and Technology) and COMSEC (Commerce) and COMIAC (Information) need to be analyzed. Instead of creating new structures, the existing ones should be invigorated and made fully functional to achieve the expected objectives.
- There are no binding obligations on members regarding follow-up and implrementation of decisions. Therefore, the OIC must evolve mechanisms to follow up the resolutions and decisions adopted by the Islamic Summit and Ministerial meetings.
- People to people contact and exchange of scholars, media persons and cultural troupes could strengthen the sentiments of Islamic solidarity and unity.
- The OIC countries must establish Centers of Excellence in the fields of technology, education and economy which could be affiliated with international institutions of repute for long term exchange and cooperation. Coordination among think tanks and scholars across the OIC is imperative the handle the ideological and political problems of the OIC.
- The Islamic world must invest in the development of frontier technologies if it has to compete in the modern era of knowledge-based economy. The OIC should find a way to utilize the expertise and services of the Muslim expatriate community in North America and Europe.
- The existing charter provides a solid foundation to address issues of interest and concerns to Muslims in areas of security, politics, economic, science and technology, commerece. There is no need to reinvent the wheel by introducing major changes in the charter. The mechanism envisaged in the charter simply needs to be activated through better funding, committed personnel and strong political support from the member states.
- In view of new challenges on account of globalization, misperception of the Islamic world, the existing OIC institutions should be strengthened and new departments with specific deliberable and time bound action plans be created in areas such as international terrorism, dispute settlement, education, women empowerment, human rights. The collaboration of professionals, civil society and think tanks could prove crucial for buttressing the existing “bureaucratic” structure.
- A Crisis Management Committee which can deal with emergencies arising when the Summit Conference or ICFM is not meeting.
- Reforms in the OIC cannot be modeled on the pattern of European Economic Community (EU) because the Islamic world is not one homogenous bloc. Due attention should, therefore, be given to regional sub-blocs, working under the umbrella of the OIC.
- Fraternal ties between the existing think tanks and institutions involved with security and international trade issues should be established and strengthened through bilateral and multilateral efforts.
- In dealing with the West, the OIC members must avoid confrontation as well as capitulation. Despite inhospitable environment, the OIC should pursue a vision the central theme of which should consist of peaceful co-existence, harmonious interfaith dialogue, condemnation of terrorist acts and emphasis on settlement of disputes by peaceful means. In this respect, the existing gap between Muslim street opinions and the Governments should be abridged to avoid further polarization of Islamic societies. The Islamic world should promote signing of social contracts between governments and civil societies to ease the confrontation.
- Dialogue with the West to remove misperception of Islam as a religion seeking war against other religions and civilizations should be conducted under the OIC. Workshops, media activities and sustained advertisement highlighting Islam as a moderate and progressive religion should be launched by the OIC Secretariat for which special funds should be provided.
- Lack of economic justice within the Islamic societies is another obstacle in the path of moderation. The way forward is in democratization and preservation of human rights and civil liberties within Islamic countries.
- Internal reform in Muslim countries are inevitable. The US intervention in internal affairs of Islamic countries will continue. Keeping these factors in mind, the Islamic countries should strive to benefit from their cooperation with knowledge based societies and thus help avoid marginalization of the Islamic world.
- Creation of an effective and genuine Pan Islamic Media or news agency was needed to safeguard the image of Islam and its followers and to project Islamic perspectives in unmistakable terms.
- The inclusion of any non-Muslim state with sizeable Muslim minority should not be given an observer status within the OIC system as it will erode the Islamic character of the OIC. Also, it will have a negative impact for Pakistan by reducing its influence as a heavy weight within the OIC.
Despite its dismal performance so far, the fact remains that the OIC is a useful medium for projecting Muslim interests in the international fora. The weakness of the OIC is due to an internal lack of cohesion and unrepresentative leadership in most member states. Its challenges primarily are of democracy, of defense of Islam and development of societies, which are responsible for marginalization of Islamic countries in world affairs.
It is frustrating that despite the fact that Muslims represent one-fifth of the world’s population, possess 70 per cent of the world energy resources and 40 per cent of the available raw material, its total GDP is only five per cent of the world GDP. The entire GDP of OIC member-states is a mere $1,200 billion as against Japan’s $5,500 billion. The failure of the Muslim world to embrace modern technology and spread education is obvious with only 500 PhDs being produced annually as compared to 3,000 in India and 5,000 in the UK. Political marginalization has thus been further compounded by economic depression.
OIC’s Charter and name need not be changed. An effective and powerful Secretary General of international stature could steer OIC’s objectives and activities. Instead of indulging in total overhaul and restructuring, which in the long run could prove impractical, a modest beginning can be made by (i) setting up an institutional mechanism for conflict prevention and resolution with member states; (ii) creating a network of centers of excellence in science and technology; (iii) establishing a permanent forum of Islamic thought to provide guidance and opinion; (iv) allocating adequate financial resources to implement these proposals; (v) allocating at least 0.5 percent of the GDP by the member states for implementing OIC objectives; and (vi) establishing a dedicated department in the OIC secretariat for promoting intra-OIC trade.
The OIC is an organization of Muslim countries. Non-Islamic states like India, Russia and the Philippines – who want to enter it for their own motives – should not be allowed to become observers or members of the OIC. This would not only affect Islamic solidarity but also weaken Pakistan’s influence in the OIC.
The OIC derives its legitimacy and strength not from the Charter but from the decisions of the heads of state/governments. OIC is primarily a political organization. Specialized bodies (like COMSTECH, COMCEC, IDB, ISBO) are already there and need activation rather than creating new structures on the pattern of IMB and the World Bank.
For the OIC to succeed, it should curb the tendency to set up new organizations or reach for unrealistic goals. For instance, the meeting of Islamic Conference Foreign Ministers (ICFM) held recently in Islamabad, inter alia, decided to set up a poverty alleviation fund of 10 billion dollars. Of 57 member states, how many are in a position to subscribe to this huge sum? Indeed, barring few, all member states qualify for assistance from this fund. Perhaps it would be more realistic if Pakistan’s proposal to set up a fund of 1 billion dollars for the promotion of science and technology is given positive consideration.
The conventional wisdom is that an organization is as strong as its members wish it to be. The gathering storms over Muslim societies should give a pause to Muslim leadership and they must respond to the changing world scenario with alacrity and imagination or else they will be consigned to oblivion and the OIC will remain at best, a footnote in contemporary political history.
5 Documents circulated at the 10th Summit, Putrajaya, October 2003
6 Islamabad Meeting of the OIC Commission of Eminent Persons, May 28-29, 2005, available in “Pakistan and the OIC” Report of the Pakistan Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
7 Speech of Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, at the Inaugural Session of the 2nd and Final Meeting of the OIC Commission of Eminent Persons, May 28, 2005.
8 Tayyab Siddiqui, “OIC at the Crossroads,” DAWN Newspaper, December 22, 2005.
10 Tayyab Siddiqui, “Restructuring OIC,” DAILY POST, May 15, 2007.
11 Ministry of Foreign Affairs Islamabad, Handbook, International Seminar on OIC Challenge and Response – Enlightened Moderation, 1-2 June, 2004.
United Arab Emirates
Sierra Leone (1972)
Burkina Faso (1975)
Cote D’Ivoire (2001)
Bosnia and Herzegovina (1994)
Central African Republic (1997)
Northern Cyprus (Turkish Cypriot State) (1979)
The Secretaries General of the OIC
- H.R.H Tunku Abdul Rahman (Malaysia) )1971-1973)
- H.E. Hassan Al-Touhami (Egypt) (1974-1975)
- H.E. Dr Amadou Karim Gaye (Senagal) (1975-1979)
- H.E. Mr. Habib Chatty (Tunisia) (1979-1984)
- H.E. Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada (Pakistan) (1985-1988)
- H.E. Dr. Hamid Algabid (Niger) (1989-1996)
- H.E. Dr. Azeddine Laraki (Morroco) (1997-2000)
- H.E. Dr. Abdelouahed Belkeziz (Morocco) (2001-2004)
- H.E. Prof. Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanogolu (Turkey) (2005 to Present)
Past Islamic Summit Conferences
|1st||1969 September 22 – 25||Morocco||Rabat|
|2nd||1974 February 22 -24||Pakistan||Lahore|
|3rd||1981 January 25-29||Saudi Arabia||Mecca & Taif|
|4th||1984 January 16-19||Morocco||Casablanca|
|5th||1987 January 26-29||Kuwait||Kuwait City|
|6th||1991 December 9-11||Senagal||Dakkar|
|7th||1994 December 13-15||Morocco||Casablanca|
|1st Extraordinary||1997 March 23||Pakistan||Islamabad|
|8th||1997 December 9-11||Iran||Tehran|
|9th||2000 November 12-13||Qatar||Doha|
|2nd Extraordinary||2003 March 5||Qatar||Doha|
|10th||2003 October 16-17||Malaysia||Putrajaya|
|3rd Extra Ordinary||2005 December 7-8||Saudi Arabia||Makkah Al Mukaramah|
 Tayyab Siddiqui is a former ambassador of Pakistan.
 OIC Secretariat, Jeddah, Basic Facts.
 Senate of Pakistan, Foreign Relations Committee, “Pakistan and the OIC,” Report 6, September 2005.