7 February 2015
According to OIC’s official website, the Organization and its Secretary General issued twelve statements of condemnation during the past month. Five of these were related to developments in non-OIC countries such as the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo and its publication of cartoons of Prophet Mohammad. The Organization condemned both. The remaining seven pertained to developments within the Organization’s own domain, namely Moslem countries. These were the murders committed by ISIS, terrorist attacks in the Sinai, Nigeria, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
The second set of statements, beyond their immediate purpose, also underlined, though indirectly, the biggest challenge facing the OIC: Putting an end to the sectarian strife raging in the Middle East.
Is this within terms of reference of the Organization? This is what its Charter says:
“… to be guided by the noble Islamic values of unity and fraternity, and affirming the essentiality of promoting and consolidating the unity and solidarity among the Member States in securing their common interests at the international arena…
“… to enhance and strengthen the bond of unity and solidarity among the Muslim peoples and Member States; to respect, safeguard and defend the national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all Member States…
“Objectives and Principles
“The objectives of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation shall be:
“1. To enhance and consolidate the bonds of fraternity and solidarity among the Member States…
“3. To respect … non-interference in the domestic affairs and to respect sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of each Member State;
“4. To support the restoration of complete sovereignty and territorial integrity of any Member State under occupation, as a result of aggression, on the basis of international law and cooperation with the relevant international and regional organizations…
“18. To cooperate in combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, organised crime, illicit drug trafficking, corruption, money laundering and human trafficking;
“… 3. All Member States shall settle their disputes through peaceful means and refrain from use or threat of use of force in their relations;
“4. All Member States undertake to respect national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of other Member States and shall refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of others;
The foregoing is self-explanatory. But there is something to be added: In the Middle East, the noble value of fraternity has fallen victim to fratricide. The sectarian war which has caused indescribable suffering shows that the OIC has failed its fundamental mission of securing peace among its members.
The OIC, founded in 1969, has largely remained a foreign policy tool of Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom hosts its headquarters and does more to finance it than others. Like all international organizations the OIC Secretariat needs the support of a minimum number of members to take the initiative on a given issue. This seldom happens. Yet, while the OIC remains a distant observer, the UN has been a lightning rod for criticism by some Moslem countries, in particular Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Saudi Arabia was elected to the Security Council at the end of 2013. However the Saudis, voicing their dissatisfaction with Security Council’s inability to carry out its duties and responsibilities in Syria, its failure to bring about a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to free the Middle East from all weapons of mass destruction, rejected the seat.
Turkey also ran for a Security Council seat at the end of 2014 but failed to get elected. Turkey is a very vocal critic of the UN.
None of this is to say that the UN as a whole and the Security Council in particular are fulfilling their mission. However, there has to be some justice.
Today’s sectarian wars are primarily a problem for the Islamic world. In the past Moslem countries were referred to simply by their names. Nowadays, they are often mentioned with reminders about their being Sunni or Shia. So as a first step they need to overcome their sectarian bias. Then, they need to stop the current bloodshed. They need to energize the OIC. They need to address every problem facing them fairly and squarely in Organization’s forums. They need to be broad-minded and forward-looking. They need to review their stance towards secularism as a bulwark against sectarianism. They need to assign tasks to OIC’s existing mechanisms or create new ones in search of political solutions. They may not succeed but at least they would have made a collective effort which is more worthwhile than issuing condemnations. And, when there is a will, the first step is always important…
And finally, they may also wish to look at the following paragraph from the OIC Charter’s preamble and think about deleting the last eight words since these contradict the universal definition of democracy:
“… to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, good governance, rule of law, democracy and accountability in Member States in accordance with their constitutional and legal systems;”