Established in 1969, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is an intergovernmental organization with an evident aim to fortify solidarity among Muslim nations. It is the second-largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations with a membership of 57 nation-states stretching across four continents. OIC was founded in a historical summit of the heads of states and governments of Muslim countries held in Morocco in 1969. The summit was held in response to the arson of a Zionist in August 1969, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque was deliberately set on fire. This summit is also deemed as the first unified expression of the Muslim Ummah in favour of global Muslim solidarity and safeguarding the interests of the global Muslim community. The underlying motivation for the establishment of OIC was to act as a multilateral forum for Muslim nations to echoing their concerns in the international arena and to work for the welfare of Muslims. In March 1970, the secretariat was established in Jeddah, KSA along with the appointment of a Secretary-General as the head of OIC and the first-ever meeting of Islamic Conference of Foreign
Minister (ICFM) took place.
OIC members represent 22% of the world population; 70% of world’s energy resources, 40% of available raw material along with 2% of the world’s GDP, 1.3% of the world trade and only 1.5% of the investments.
The main purpose to establish OIC was to have an international platform for Muslims to endorse Muslim harmony and goodwill across the globe. Maintaining the right of self-determination for Muslims is another very important motive behind the establishment of OIC. The organization was instituted to uphold the integrity of holy sites of the Muslim faith. Today, Muslims are facing myriad issues including the right to self-determination in case of Kashmir and Palestine, sectarian divide, and recent waves of islamophobia. There are different views regarding the pragmatic approach and success of OIC, however, it is pertinent to mention that OIC is a realistic instrument having the potential to propagate the concerns of the global Muslim community on the international stage.
The Organization has the remarkable admiration to stimulate the Ummah into a cohesive body and act as the representative of 1.5 billion Muslims of the world. Another significant character of OIC is to establish consultative and cooperative relations with United Nations as well as with other inter-governmental organizations to defend the fundamental interests of the Muslims and to work for the peaceful resolution of conflicts involving the member states of OIC. The organization has taken a variety of steps to safeguard the factual values and traditions of Islam. However, there is a need to dispel misperceptions about Islam and to eliminate the prejudice against Muslims. OIC acted as the pedestal of Muslim alliance formation at the system level and induced harmony among the member states.
The organization also aims to support its member states on the legal grounds but there is a need to coordinate and take mutual initiatives to overcome the challenges faced by the Islamic world in particular and the international community in general. Under the umbrella of the OIC and global Muslim solidarity, there is a need to have a result-oriented approach and unanimous support from each member state, particularly in cases related to the right to self-determination like Kashmir and Palestine. One can observe the lack of support from the international community and entities to secure the rights of Muslim countries even with accordance with the U.N. Charter and international law. OIC should act as the curator and guardian of the Muslim world by emulating its policy of non-interference. There is an equal responsibility on the member states of OIC to ensure active participation at the forum and further the agenda of Muslim solidarity in global politics, monetary and social scenarios.
Contemporarily, most of the Muslim countries are in a state of a social, political or economic crisis, especially the ongoing civil wars, foreign interventions and economic deprivation. It is the high time for Muslim unity and magnanimity, more than ever before. No doubt today, Muslims are facing serious political, socio-economic, cultural and many other challenges. These challenges have a disruptive impact on the harmony, peace, safety and development of the global Muslim community. A quick analysis of the strategies adopted by OIC to address all the mentioned challenges highlights the plan of action and tangible measures taken by the organization in September 2005, comprising of imbibing the sense of kinship in Muslims, combating the violence and terrorism, and facilitating their progress in the fields of economics and science. It also includes the projection of a real image of Islam and its compassionate values across the globe.
On the other hand, there is a dire need to abide by a pragmatic approach and revamp the prevalent policies and devise a new plan of actions to deal with the predicaments faced by the present-day Muslim community. The situation in Palestine, IOK, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq and consequently the situation of the people living in these countries demand an all-new strategy to forge peace in the Muslim nations. There are many Muslim refugees around the globe going through crises.
Muslims in India are facing discrimination and they are constitutionally marginalized by the Hindutva regimes. Similarly, the grave human rights transgressions and IOK poses a question to the credibility of initiatives taken by the OIC and UN. The annexation plan of Israel and its aberrant actions towards the Palestinian Muslims also adds distrust in the efficacy of OIC. Considering the prolonged Muslim questions tallying them with the plan of action of the organization, it seems that all these plans are merely idealistic or irresolute.
For the realization of Muslim unity across the globe and render the OIC as an effective organ of the Muslim community, there is a need to unite the Muslims by disregarding their internal differences. The appraisal of OIC’s efficacy during the Saudi Arabia and Qatar rift, the role of this supra-national authority seemed very limited in mitigating the differences between Muslim nations when it hinged on Kuwait to reconcile the issue. OIC should take responsibility to dispel misconception and misunderstandings among the Muslim countries being the sole entity of the Muslim world at the international level. In case of any such rifts, the major beneficiaries of this inharmonious and bitter milieu in the Middle East are undoubtedly Israel and other terrorist organizations eager to derail the peace of the region and to damage the philosophy of Muslim brotherhood and unity. The United Nations and the OIC have passed many resolutions regarding the territorial disputes of Palestinian and Kashmir but they have been discarded with impunity by Israel and India, correspondingly. These both unsettled issues are a reason for regular suffering for the Muslims of Asia as well as the Middle East. During the 1994 OIC Conference in Tehran, a Contact Group on Kashmir (CGK) was created, which later on accurately rejected any connection between terrorism and the right of Muslims to self-rule and self-defence against foreign occupation. In June 2002, the CGK asked the UN to sensitize all its member states regarding the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue. Everyone knows that both Pakistan and India are nuclear states and the Kashmir issue is a triggering point, which can further bring disaster in South Asia. It is a compulsion to resolve this particular matter to avert another war in the region because now it will be more disastrous. The human rights violations in IOK have also been highlighted through this forum through publishing reports and raising voice at international forums. However, no action has been taken to highlight the blatant threats by India to the support groups and human right activists taking up the cause.
It is need of the hour that OIC should take concrete measures with the help of all member states to settle the issues Muslim world is facing. Otherwise, the Muslim brotherhood or unity under the umbrella of OIC will be affected. It is pertinent to avoid inclusion of any such element in the organization to avoid mistrust. Instead, the OIC’s heads of government should sit together to think and formulate achievable plans. A coordinated diplomatic outreach of Muslim nations in this regard can play a vital role in highlighting the problems the global Muslim community is facing. The priorities must also include a restructuring of the organization with the more effectual, amicable and accountable approach. Many regional Muslim blocs like the Arab League, the GCC and the ECO should also work closely with OIC to get better results. This sort of unity can certainly bring success and a worthy response. Such initiatives can bring a consensus-based solution for the aforementioned issues, within the Middle East and South Asia. Every member state should be given respect and right to present its view no matter others may differ in their stance. It is a known fact that Turkey, Pakistan and Iran are already hosting a sheer size of the displaced Muslim population, and this burden should be shared by other affluent Muslim countries through a mechanism devised by OIC. Pakistan has always supported OIC and its decisions regarding
various issues, thereby, OIC should support Pakistan in its stance on the issue of Kashmir. The Kashmiri Muslims must be granted the right to live and worship freely and similarly, the Palestinian Muslims should be unshackled from the illegal occupation of Israel.
The idea of Muslim unity was the bedrock of OIC and the organization must adhere to it as the founding and functionary principle. OIC member states should work together for economic stability, erecting peace and harmony in Muslim Ummah, and build a positive image of Muslims across the globe.