Challenges and Opportunities

On 21 August 1969, an Australian born Christian Dennis Michael Rohan attempted to set fire to the Ancient Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Fire destroyed part of the roof and 800-year-old pulpit of Salahuddin Ayubi, a general who liberated Jerusalem from crusaders in the 12th century. After this accident, a former Mufti (chief Muslim Islamic legal religious authority) Amin al-Husseini of Jerusalem demanded to call on the summit of all Muslim heads of state. 25 Muslim countries also filed a complaint to the United Nations alleging that Israel was complicit in the arson.

Reacting to this accident, Moroccan King Hassan II invited Muslim leaders. On 25 September 1969, representative from 24 Muslim Majority countries met in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. In the conference, they decided to establish a body. Furthermore, they also passed the resolution which stated that, “Muslim government would consult with a view to promoting among themselves close cooperation and mutual assistance in the economic, scientific, cultural and spiritual fields, inspired by the immortal teachings of Islam.”

March 1970, the first Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers was held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In the meeting, they planned for setting a permanent secretariat.

The headquarters of OIC is located in Jeddah. It is the second-largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations. It consists of 57 states which cover four continents (Asia, Africa, Europe and South America). OIC is the collective voice for 1.9 billion Muslims. OIC has a permanent delegation to the United Nations and European Union. During the 38th meeting of the foreign minister on 28 June 2011 in Astana, Kazakhstan the name was changed from the Organisation of Islamic conference to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

One of the big achievements of OIC was to get PLO observer status at the UN and adopt a number of non-binding resolutions at the UN General Assembly, including one that declared Zionism a racist ideology (Resolution no# 3379).

Following are some objectives of OIC: To preserve Islamic social and economic values, promote solidarity among member states, increase cooperation in social, economic, cultural and political areas; enhance and consolidate the bonds of fraternity, to promote inter-state relations based on justice; mutual respect and good neighborliness to ensure global peace, security and harmony; reaffirm its support for the rights of peoples as stipulated in the UN Charter and international law; support and empower the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination and establish their sovereign State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, while safeguarding its historic and Islamic character as well as the Holy places therein; protect and defend the true image of Islam; protect the human right and fundamental freedom; Eliminate racial discrimination.

In 1970 a conflict broke out between Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Jordan. The President of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser and Saudi Arabia King Faisal jointly led the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to resolve the clash. OIC also played a vital role during the Ramadan War in 1973 against Israel. OIC also solved the issue of oil restriction against the supporters of Israel in 1974. Due to the OIC backing the Palestine liberation organization (PLO) get recognition from the international community to represent stateless Palestinians.

One of the big achievements of OIC was to get PLO observer status at the UN and adopt a number of non-binding resolutions at the UN General Assembly, including one that declared Zionism a racist ideology (Resolution no# 3379).

OIC has been also criticized by many people for not providing any solutions in current crises in the Muslim countries.  Another big challenge for OIC is that there is a political diversity as well as states having different political systems, either a monarchy or democracy. The OIC doesn’t have a unified voice because most of its member countries are not democratic.

It is no secret that members of OIC face a variety of problems due to the trembling relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran due to the Shia-Sunni conflict. The Syrian issue is another challenge for the OIC. According to reports, more than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives during the civil war. During the last 9 years, OIC did not play its role to minimize the conflict. Many Muslim countries are infamous regarding sectarian violence. Equal participation of women is another challenge for the organization.

The organisation is suffering from a structural problem, as organization members belong to different continents. Its budget is not enough for global activities because most of the member states are poor but still, the organization can play its part in the future. The major conflict in this contemporary world is going on in the Middle East so the OIC can play its role to minimize the conflict. Sectarian conflicts among states should be solved peacefully. The conflict should be resolved through bilateral or OIC can play its role by doing mediation or providing Good office. Economically OIC should help poor member for financial support. The lack of enforcement gaps must be full fill in the future.

Raja Furqan Ahmad
Raja Furqan Ahmad
The writer is a student of International Relations and Freelance journalist currently based in Islamabad, Pakistan. He can be reached at [email protected] or @furqanraja1122 on Twitter

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