By: Abdul Rasool Syed
The Muslim world is currently facing a plethora of myriad internal and external challenges. As for the internal challenges, it is marked with deep social, political and sectarian cleavages and also the ever-burgeoning economic blues. Externally, the most daunting, pervasive challenge that the Islamic world is confronted with today is the mushrooming islamophobia. Anti-Islam lobbyists have launched a nefarious campaign to undermine the swiftly growing influence of Islam by equating this religion of peace and serenity with terrorism and intolerance. Therefore, Islam, its founder Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his followers, i.e. Muslims, are repeatedly subjected to constant censure by the Islamophobes.
Recent, highly condemnable attempt by a Dutch lawmaker, Geert Wilders to denigrate the Holy Prophet (SAW) through a cartoon contest bears testimony to the fact that Islamophobia is soaring at an exponential rate in the non-Muslim world, especially the West. In fact, it is recoil of the rapid growth and widespread embracement of Islam in the world, particularly in Europe. In its religious forecast for 2050, the PEW Research Center concludes that global Muslim population is expected to grow at faster rate than the non-Muslim population. Therefore, anti-Muslim forces are employing all their resources to thwart the spread of Islam.
Moreover, there is also a ubiquitous paranoia in the Western world that Islam may replace, as an alternate dispensation, their decades-old political, social and economic entrenchments and put, thereby, an end to their luxurious and immodest style of living.
Sadly, the role of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – the Muslim world’s biggest and the world’s second biggest organization after the United Nations (UN) – to counter this negative propaganda against Islam has been dismal, to say the least. It has miserably failed in fulfilling the aspirations of the Muslim Ummah. It has done nothing worthwhile to effectively address the ills that plague the Muslim nations in a tangible form and to project the true, soft image of Islam – indubitably the very antithesis of what is being promoted by the anti-Islam forces. “A toothless paper tiger,” this is how the critics mention the OIC. The main objective for which the OIC was established in 1969 was to safeguard and protect the Muslims’ rights and interests globally, but that purpose has not been achieved yet.
Despite the fact that OIC member countries possess nearly 70 percent of the world’s energy resources and 40 percent of available raw material, their GDP is only 5 percent of the world’s total GDP. OIC member states host approximately 22 percent of the world population, 25 percent of the population of OIC countries does not have access to medical facilities and safe drinking water. Half the population lives below the poverty line classified as the poorest. No Muslim country is at higher rankings in the Human Development Index.
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This gloomy state of affairs of the Islamic world is not confined just to the economic and social spheres; it also miserably lags way behind in the realms of education and technology. None of its educational or research institutions or centres is placed among the top 100 in the world.
There are multiple politico-socio-economic and religious causes behind the failure and the sorry state of affairs of the OIC. The most prominent among them is the lack of unity amongst the Muslims. The Islamic world is divided on political and religious fault lines.
Politically, it has been divided into two camps: there are countries belonging to Western camp and the others that represent the conservative camp. A continuous tussle is being witnessed between these two divisions. The pro-West camp is keen to implement Western political order whereas the opposite camp wants to adopt Islamic political system. Religiously, Shia-Sunni schism has also been an impediment to the success of the OIC. The Muslims have never been able to rise above this division and to think in terms of being one Ummah. This very situation prevailing in the Muslim world gives an opportunity to the enemies of Islam to further their vested interests by engaging Muslims in fight against their own Muslim brothers. The ongoing Shia-Sunni fight in most parts of the Muslim world, especially the Middle East, is part of international great game that has been orchestrated by the Islamophobes.
Additionally, different forms of government, e.g. democracy, kingship, dictatorship, military rule, and others, are in practice in the Muslim world. Therefore, there is no coherence and harmony in the thinking of the rulers. Inefficient and incompetent leadership is another major contributor to the failure of the OIC. Save Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Mahatir Mohammad and Imran Khan, we hardly find any other name in the Muslim world that can be termed as a ‘leader’.
Economically, most of the Muslim countries belong to the Third World and are engaged in developing their respective economies. For this reason, they have to bank on the foreign powers for financial aid. This, in turn, gives an opportunity to those powers to exploit the situation to their own advantage and compel the Third World countries to capitulate to their diktat.
It is also perplexing that most Muslim countries are utterly backward in the field of science and technology. When a country is technologically zero and cannot make even a minor part of its machines, how can it challenge a technologically advanced country and face its might?
The absence of strong military power is yet another problem that contributes to the impotence of the organization. Ever since its establishment, it has paid no heed to strengthen itself militarily and emerge as a formidable force at par with, for example, NATO.
All the aforementioned factors inhibit the OIC from playing a significant role in the international arena. This melancholic state of world’s second biggest international organization warrants an immediate overhaul and reform. Following is the prescription to make OIC a vibrant, dynamic and a potent organization:
(i) First of all, an institutional mechanism for resolution of conflicts between and among the member states should be developed on priority basis.
(ii) The OIC should be renamed as “Muslim Union” so that it may inculcate the feelings of unity and integration in the Muslim populace.
(iii) The creation of a Muslim defence force, at par with NATO, is inevitable. It would, for sure, aid in strengthening the organization militarily.
(iv) Establishment of a “Muslim think tank” at OIC level to provide guidance and counsel its member states on political, social and economic issues and also to develop a strategy to counter the nefarious plots of Islamophobes is the most pressing need of the Muslims.
(v) A multi-billion dollar fund for the promotion of science and technology in the Muslim world should also be launched.
(vi) A dedicated department in the OIC secretariat for promoting intra-OIC trade should be established.
(vii) Last but not least, the OIC member states should contribute at least 0.5 percent of their respective GDP for the implementation of OIC objectives.
To cap it all, given the current surge in Islamophobia, the OIC could emerge as the most relevant organization of the world by playing a constructive role between the Muslims and the followers of other faiths. It could also serve as a unified, vigorous and collective voice of the 1.5 billion plus Muslims, highlighting the issues related to the Muslim world at international forums and also to present the true image of Islam that stands for peace, brotherhood, tolerance, pluralism and peaceful co-existence.