Muslims contribute a quarter of the world’s population. It was inevitable that they would have had their own international platform wherefrom they would be able to tackle problems, increase trade and project a singular voice in dealing with the rest of the world. 40 years after its creation, it’s a dog that has long lost not only its teeth but its bark as well. It sits in the desert with its tailbetween its legs, feeding on the scraps of the heavyweights.
Formed in 1969, The Organization of Islamic Conference was primarily designed as a consortium which would tackle issues like the occupation of Palestine, the plight of Muslims in occupied Kashmir, the paucity of humanity in Africa; today it is nothing more than another summit of no-resolve. The promise that this leader board offered has been found wanting in the most dire needs of the Ummah.
Constant internal squabbling and pitting egos to test rather than resolve, has shattered the spine of this organization. Within the Muslim nations and in the rest of the world, the OIC is seen as little more than a joke. With its primary failure in helping out the Palestinians against the tyrannical usurpation of land in the Promised Land by Israel, even favoring the aggressor (as was in the 2006 Lebanon War), faith has been truly lost from the council.
The reasons for the failure for this collective are many. Primarily, it lacks a strong nation at its heart who can unite the 57 members under a single banner. After Arafat, King Faisal and Mahatir Muhammad, there have been few leaders from the Muslim world who have possessed the kind of charisma that unites nations sans frontiers. And even in their presence, the calls emanating from their summit conferences were hollow rhetoric.
Apart from religion and in some cases language, the participating countries find it hard to see any commonality with other members. Often separated via geographical distances, nations fail to identify any commonality with comrades other than from their faith.
Many states prefer smaller, closer individual ties rather than a UN or EU styled summit conference where they can find trust in members with a common objective. The mistrust between each of the nations who have been often embroiled in armed conflicts in recent times makes it hard for the Conference to mediate. Many of the states have been demanding action rather than talk for decades, every year they leave empty handed and disappointed from the summit.
The heavy dominance of Arab nations also lends a problem for the member states. The voice of others is rarely given as much importance as it is to the Arab members. Hence it contributes to the acronym spoof – Oil Incorporated, where the OIC is just used as an alternative place to host a mini-OPEC meeting.
Trade within Muslim nations in this platform is not taken seriously. Talks of unity over the Palestinian issue, the Kashmir oppression, liberation and empowerment of women are all subjects upon which resolutions are hammered out, chants are raised, and are arguments staged but very little follow-up. The common criticism that the OIC just does not have the steel to mark influence even among member states goes a long way in proving the demise of an institution that promised much but fell prey to greed.
The last time the OIC made a ripple was when the Bush Administration decided to send a permanent envoy in 2008, listen in on what the Muslims had to say at the OIC.
The OIC Summit of 2010, which features only the Foreign Ministers, has as its top agenda the conflicts in Somalia, Sudan and Kashmir. While options of intervention in the two African countries will be discussed, the leader of the resistance group in Indian Administered Kashmir has also been invited. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Chairman of the secessionist party, Hurriyat Conference aims to impress upon the participants to show urgency in resolving the issue of Kashmir in accordance to the wishes of its people. He is also expected to urge the participants to use their influence in getting illegally detained Kashmiris released from Indian jails.
Today, the Muslim world is in tatters. Divided like a babbling band of rabble, there is no comfort to be had from this grand round table. The bulk of the world’s conflicts are in Muslim countries or Muslim dominated areas. It also does not help when the proponents of violence in places like Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Iraq, Indonesia, Sudan, and Nigeria are Muslims (Palestine is an infinite cycle of violence and counter-violence). While this would present an ideal ground for the OIC to exert a calming influence and stake a claim to its global importance, they continue to meet behind closed doors and discuss strategies which never see the light of day. With the next summit due to be held in Tajikistan in 20 days time, close to 1.5 billion Muslims hope that this congregation finds not only its international bark, but also its teeth.