The sole body representing the voice of Muslims throughout the world is the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). It is an inter-governmental organization grouping fifty-seven States. These States in Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco, on 25 September 1969 decided to pool their resources together, combine their efforts and speak with one voice to safeguard the interest and ensure the progress and well-being of their peoples and those of other Muslims in the world over.
The OIC was established in the wake of the criminal arson perpetrated on 21 August 1969 by Zionist elements against Al-Aqsa Mosque, in occupied Jerusalem. It was to defend the honor; dignity and faith of the Muslims, to face this bitter challenge launched in the holy city of Al-Quds, against the Mosque of Al-Aqsa, the first Qibla and third holiest Shrine of Islam. At that time, the OIC was able to muster unanimous worldwide condemnation of this heinous act. OIC also provided a forum for the Islamic states to think together of their common cause and overcome the differences, unite and lay the foundations of this large grouping of States. The OIC was also entrusted, in absolute priority, to work towards liberating Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa.
Six months later, in March 1970, Jeddah was chosen as a permanent General Secretariat, pending the liberation of Jerusalem, which would be the permanent Headquarters.
Two and a half years after Rabat, in February 1972, the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, meeting adopted the Charter of the Organization, whose purpose was to strengthen solidarity and cooperation among Islamic States in the political, economic, cultural, scientific and social fields.
Let us analyze the charter and see what has happened since then.
1. The organization was supposed to Strengthen:
a) Islamic solidarity among Member States: This has hardly been achieved. The Islamic States have been fighting with each other (Iran and Iraq), and some have become under occupation. Namely, Iraq and Afghanistan. There are differences between the Islamic States. Libya, an Arab State does not enjoy good relations with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Even in Algeria, the Muslims are fighting for their rights, with their fellow Muslim leaders.
b) Cooperation in the political, economic, social, cultural and scientific fields: There has been sporadic co-operation in this field. The Standing Committee for Information and Cultural Affairs (COMIAC), Standing Committee for Scientific and Technical Cooperation (COMSTECH) and Standing Committee for Economic and Trade Cooperation (COMCEC), exist, but need to play an active role.
c) The struggle of all Muslim people to safeguard their dignity, independence and national rights: The organization failed to address the problem of occupation of Iraq.
2. Coordinate action to:
a) Safeguard the Holy Places: The holy places of Muslims are still under occupation, and the required coordination is yet to be seen for safeguarding the holy places. Even the country that took lead in establishing OIC (Morocco) has violated the charter by recognition of Israel. Well there are also countries like Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, and Qatar, who have done the same thing. The Al-Quds Committee exists on paper, for looking after the above charter. Needs to become vibrant.
b) Support the struggle of the Palestinian people and assist them in recovering their rights and liberating their occupied territories. The moral and financial support for the Palestinian people is there, but diminishing day by day. The liberation of occupied territories looks dismal as day passes.
3. Work to:
a) Eliminate racial discrimination and all forms of colonialism: The discrimination among Muslims is present. We are branched as Arabs and non-Arabs and Sunni and Shiia. The elimination has not been possible. And the colonialism in form of Iraqi occupation is in front of us. The people of Kashmir are under Indian occupation
b) Create a favorable atmosphere for the promotion of cooperation and understanding between Member States and other countries. OIC has provided a forum to the member states for co-operation. But, this opportunity needs to be capitalized.
The review of charter does not create a picture of a vibrant OIC. With this background, the leaders from 57 Muslim countries are scheduled to gather in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, from Oct. 16 to 18, for the 10th summit of the OIC. All indications are that the summit is going to witness quite a bit of diplomatic fireworks.
If this is going to be a usual OIC summit, which has a hallmark of futile gatherings where exercises in oratory and meaningless resolutions are presented as substitutes for measured judgment. Fingers of blame will be pointed, making the owners of the fingers feel good without having to face the arduous task of serious analysis and sober policy-making.
But, would the Kuala Lumpur summit be an exercise in futility? The answer is, it should not. The status of Muslims of the world demand that their leaders sit together to develop a vision 2050 for themselves. The Muslims of today are in disarray. OIC is the only hope of reviving the past of the Muslims, and putting them into the driving force of the world. The charter needs to be reviewed, and given a practical look for the vision 2050.
OIC need to develop a pragmatic approach for solving the problems of Ummah.
A catalyst agent needs to be taking the lead role of the organization. The summit’ host, Mahathir Mohamed, Malaysia’s prime minister can be the person. He recently said, "I am interested in what we, as Muslims, can do for ourselves." This is the first approach that needs to be taken.
Economic power is the reality of the day. Barring a handful Muslim countries, majority of Muslims are living below the poverty line. As long as Muslim countries remain poor and underdeveloped they will not only fail to give their citizens a decent life but would also count for little in terms of international politics. But why is it that most Muslim countries fail to free themselves from the shackles of poverty? The classical answer given by the "blame others" school is that Muslims have received a raw deal from the Western powers. No, it is the leaders that have to take blame of this. Especially, the spiritual leaders.
The Muslim nations need a new wave of economic, social and political reforms. Muslim world needs most urgently is a separation of the mosque and the state. But, anyone familiar with Islamic theology and politics would know, this is a largely fictitious problem. What the Muslim world needs is a separation of business from the state, which means the creation of a genuine private sector without which no modern market economy is possible.
The other important issue OIC is facing is the reason of its existence-to safeguard the holy cities and liberate Jerusalem. In the present scenario, it is unlikely that the OIC will be able to do so, unless it develops an Islamic army capable to defeat Israel. Most Muslim nations have danced around the issue for decades. They have not decided whether they wish to work for the destruction of Israel or to accept it, even as a bitter pill to swallow. That dual strategy has perpetuated a no-peace-no-war situation of which the principal victims have been the Palestinians. OIC member states need to adopt a unanimous approach in dealing with Israel. Either accept it as a reality or fight to eliminate it. The two-way policy is hurting the interests of Ummah.
Another serious issue at the helm of OIC would be the occupation of Iraq. OIC needs to develop a strategy that in future such aggressions are prevented. Upcoming may be against Syria, and Iran.
For future, OIC should not only play an active role in economic, cultural, political, and scientific development, but also eventually formulate Islamic armed forces capable of deployment in peace and against aggression. An Islamic union at the pattern of European Union should be the vision 2050 for OIC, and Dr. Mahathir has the capability to galvanize the Islamic countries in formulating such a union.