A Shot At Redemption

  • Publish Date: Feb 19 2018 9:07PM
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  • Updated Date: Feb 19 2018 9:07PM
A Shot At Redemption

How The Organization Of Islamic Cooperation Can Become A Major Player In Global Politics


It is remarkable that for a body with many relatively powerful members, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation exerts little diplomatic influence. Let alone global politics, it has barely affected the political dynamics of even Muslim nations. Since its inception in 1969, this supposed protector of Muslim interests has done nothing to prevent its member states from being attacked by foreign powers; it has done little to help even nations inflicted with internal conflict. The IOC watched as India bifurcated Pakistan in 1971 and again when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, resulting in 10 years of occupation and war that nearly reduced the country to ashes. More recently, it offered little more than lip service as Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen were inflicted with conflict, both internal and engineered by external forces.

The main reason for the IOC’s failure lies in how it is structured to function. While vociferously claiming that it works to “represent and protect Muslim interests globally”, the organisation’s charter limits its effectiveness, by giving the sovereignty of member states precedence over the interests of the Muslim community. The IOC’s resolutions are not binding on member states, hence there is no disincentive against violating them. Thus, the whole exercise of passing resolutions is pointless. For instance, the OIC passed a resolution for the economic boycott of Israel in 1981, yet several of its member states have good economic relations with that country. More recently, in January 2017, the United Arab Emirates, sent its troops to parade with the Indian military in New Delhi just when the OIC was condemning India for the brutal suppression and mass blinding of the Muslim population in Kashmir. The OIC didn’t so much as try to dissuade the UAE.

For the OIC to make any meaningful difference, it needs to establish an order where its resolutions are binding at least under grave circumstances such as we’re now witnessing in Syria, Yemen and Myanmar. Violation of such resolutions must invite strict punishment, the manner and quantum of which the members must codify.

To ensure the threat of punishment for violating its decisions is taken seriously by member states as well as to raise its international heft, the IOC would do worse than to build NATO-type military capacity. In fact, it would be in the global Muslim community’s interest to place under the IOC’s control the Saudi Arabia-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, which has been accused of being alliance against Iran. This would serve multiple purposes. For one, this would naturally make every IOC member state a part of the alliance, giving it more credibility than it currently enjoys. By making any intervention by this alliance contingent on a binding resolution would ensure it is not pitted against any Muslim nation such as Iran. Moreover, it could also serve as a deterrent against a future foreign attack on a Muslim nation.

On December 6, 2017, when the United States recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the OIC predictably went into an overdrive of reactionary rhetoric. But the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for an OIC summit which conversely declared East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. Even this was merely a symbolic move. The OIC carries so little leverage in global politics that it has been unable to play any role even in conflicts involving Muslims nations. In the particular case of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the IOC’s former secretary general Ekmeleddin İhsanoglu once remarked, rather helplessly, “Of course, they (Isreal) deny OIC any access there (Gaza).”

Inevitably, taking the lead of the US, more countries will come to accept Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, to the detriment of the two-state solution – unless there is a radical change in the way the OIC works, and soon. The current crises in the Muslim world provide an opportunity to the OIC to realign its working structure to the needs of the Muslim community and become its effective voice. If it does that, the OIC could be a major player in global politics – as it should have been all along.