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Organisation of Islamic Conference: A concept or reality!
MF Karim

          THE Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) was formed in Rabat, Morocco, on September 26, 1969 within a week of arson attack on Al-Aksa Mosque. It comprises 56 Muslim nations with a population of 1.3 billion people stretching from Northwestern Africa through Middle East to Australasia with divergent culture and tradition. Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, have more than a billion Muslims.
Brief History: Emir of Cordova and the Khalifas ruled Spain, North Africa together with Arabian Peninsula, and Persia from early 7th century until 11th century when Spain was lost to the Christian crusaders. The Emir of Mogul IL-Khans ruled from 1250AD and extended the empire further east into Asia Minor until middle 16th century when the Ottoman empire took over and extended the empire further into the Central Europe to the boarder of Austria-Hungary empire.
Ottoman empire simply lost her entire territory apart from Turkey, and even that was saved by the imaginative leadership of Kamal Ataturk, because of the idle incompetent King who suffered a humiliating defeat in the 1st World War. It's fair to say that the Muslims had a powerful and biggest Empire that failed to build her infrastructure like science, medicine and technology, and educate and enrich its subjects to draw their support to compete with Europe that had exploited science and built powerful Spanish, French and then British Navy to conquer and rule the world at ease.
These Muslim empires failed because the ruling class were arrogant, polygamist, ignorant and considered themselves infallible, and ruled their subjects with brute force and they left no legacy to hold on to. What happened since mid 18th century was that the european navy was dominating the Oceans, and the civilised emperors of India, Siam and China fell like a pack of cards. The Chinese silk route disbanded and the Muslims and Chinese were robbed off their possession and dignities. The Ottoman King and rest of it disappeared in oblivion. The recent memories or catastrophes were Israeli repeated invasion of Lebanon, massacre at Sabra and Shattila refugee-camps including Lebanese children and at Srebenica, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, US occupation and massacres in Afghanistan and Iraq. These are the a tragic memories that the Muslim community must remember and overcome, and draw strength in prayer to build up the future of their generation and their countries and nation.
Unity and solidarity of the Muslims had been the perennial wish of the Ummah but on what model! Initial cooperation in various fields of trade, economic, social and scientific and manpower, infrastructures like power and water supplies and road development are the fabric of further enhancement of economic integration for optimum financial and industrial development of OIC countries. This is nothing new that other countries in Europe and Asia have already done through EU and ASEAN.
There are some ill-conceived ideas floated around in Europe by some Muslim clerics in a body called "Khalafat movement" to unite the Muslims 'to do what"! I was a European history student and I found that the European countries that were ruled by old and wise leaders like Bismark, Disraile, Queen Victoria -- rather than young Napoleon and Hitler who chased their weird idea of forceful political unification that caused inhuman sufferings to the peoples, always did better for the empire, because these people had seen the past and its pros and cons, and they were knowledgeable and they had pragmatic vision and patience, and patience was a virtue. Khilafat Movement was dead and buried with the demise of Ottoman empire in 1921. These people fail to realise that in the 16th, 17th centuries there were not many inventions of science and technologies compared to that in the 21st century. The days of cavalries and sword battalions are gone.
Twenty first century is a century of science, technology, IT, global trade and capitalism that all right thinking people should take advantage of including the OIC, and make optimum use of their resources.
There is not much ideological difference with the west and the OIC would blossom in economic fields through cooperation with it rather than confrontation. This is the time for us to learn the science and technologies that others developed, to compete with them in harmony and to enrich ourselves together with the Islamic values that we nourish.
This dictates that the leadership must be with moderate well-educated people who know both West and Eastern history and its values. Malaysia is a country that has built her infrastructure, based on Western Technologies and eastern Values with honesty and hard work.
If we take a penetrating look into the revealed text of the Quran, the verses, related to the creation, the very pluralistic approach of Allah (swt) would be crystal clear. Allah (swt) created everything to worship him alone (Al Quran 51-sura AZ-Zariyat): 56). He even tolerated the rebellion of the Satan and allowed Satan to misguide human from worship of Allah (Al Quran 7-Sura Al Araf: verses 11-18). When Allah (swt) tolerates Satan, how Muslims can be intolerant to some people or power. There is no compulsion in religion (Al-Quran 2-sura Al-Baqarah: verse 256). Allah created humankind into many garbes, races and nations. The scheme was basically and essentially plural. Writer Fatema Merrnissi in her book "Scheherezade Goes West: Different Culture Different Harems", Washington Square press, 2001,p 124, said, "...the Abbasid court encouraged culture of diversity.
It was this cosmopolitan and multiculturalism of Baghdad that scholars, artists, poets and literary personalities from a variety of ethnic background and creeds of different religion lived and flourished together." It is therefore, evident that today's multi-culturalism and pluralism has its roots in the 7th and 8th century Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates. Ayat (verse) 38 Sura (chapter) Consultation of Holy Quaran, promises reward to be bestowed in the hereafter for people who conduct their affairs through consultation. Khilaf-e-Rashedeen, all four Khalifas, meticulously followed consultation and conducted national affairs through democracy.
Poverty: Apart from oil-producing Middle Eastern countries and Malaysia, the majority populations are poor. Fifty per cent of the Islamic population mainly from Niger, Gambia and some part of Nigeria and Bangladesh, India and Indonesia earn less than $1 US dollar a day whilst per capita income in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Brunei, Kuwait and Bahrain are $20,530, $19,844, $19,210, $18,700, and $16,060 dollars respectively. Yemen being their next-door neighbour earns $790 per annum.
These high earning countries managed to develop their economy with their oil wealth, rather mainly with the unearned income from petroleum royalties and Petro-chemical products. Malaysia has managed to industrialise herself over the years with hard work, talents and leadership.
Resourses:There are enormous resources, bestowed on most Muslim countries. Muslims represent one fifth of the world's population, possess 70 per cent of the world's energy resources and 40 per cent of the available raw materials, but their total GDP is only five per cent of the world GDP. The entire GDP of the OIC states is a mere 1,200 billion dollars as against Japan's 5,500 billion dollars. There are 265 Islamic Institutions worldwide with $265 billion in assets. OIC produced only 500 PhDs, as against 3,000 in India and 5,000 in the UK. Less than 300,000 qualify as scientists in OIC as against 1.1 million in the US, 700,000 in Japan.
The OIC's political marginalisation has thus been further compounded by economic backwardness. OIC should therefore aim at the economic emancipation of the member states and projection of Islamic values and teachings in the light of 9/11 episodes. Image of Islam needs to be corrected as Muslim religion is unfairly blamed for violence, intolerance and terrorism. The Ummah is in a state of siege, gripped by ignorance, apathy, disarray and discord.
An effort at shifting the focus from geo-strategic to geo-economic perspective and developing a critical mass of human resource capacity would probably salvage the Islamic world and help it regain its rightful place in the emerging global order. The Gulf Co-operation Council and 90 per cent of OPEC members could take an active role to energise the OIC members to form a viable organisation to overcome its manpower, technical, economic and tariff and trade barriers. Members of OIC should take initiative with the support of the Middle East countries to jump-start the organisational procedure and technical infrastructures and establish a permanent Secretariat. They must take initiative to build confidence within the OIC membership to move forward within the framework of macro- economic fundamentals for economic development of their Regions.
The strategy should be to have an OIC charter, a structure like Secretariat and other administrative infrastructure, manpower development and optimum use of manpower, monetary and financial co-operation, free trade and tourism, regional investment, research and development, optimising industrial development, co-ordinated fiscal and monetary policies, mixed banking, subsidies to infant Industries and agriculture infrastructures, and infrastructure development in power, water, highway and IT, and peaceful settlement of disputes, respect of different cultures and nationalities.
Because of the vertical economic disparities among the members there should be complimentary economic cultural and scientific interaction that will benefit all the members. From economic point of view OIC would be a massive consumers market that will generate huge capital for the producers and for the development of its infrastructure. The Middle East countries would benefit more in the field of services they would receive and the control they would have with their capital. They have a moral obligation and draw financial benefits like any member if they enhance the effectiveness of the organisation. OIC would be a lifeline to Bangladesh for her economic and employment development.
FDI in manufacturing and service sectors, domestic credit expansion, employment, generation, stock market, financial markets, debt financing, hedge/swap of risks, Sukut Bond; Islamic hedge fund, equity swaps, individual accounts and many other financial products that could draw investment in the region.
The growth of trade would be astronomical compared to what we have -- a meagre 3.5 per cent. The GDP growth would be high with a collective voice and contribute to the world economy. The model country should be Malaysia.
On June 23, 2005, the Malaysia's Prime Minister -- Mr. AA Badawi, urged Muslim nations to tear down tariff barriers, and move towards an Islamic Common Market.
OIC possess 60 per cent of global natural resources. It needs closer economic integration. For infrastructure development, the IDB needs $741bn US dollars for the next 10 years. Again, this month the OIC meeting at Malaysia the delegates said brief prayer for the victims of the Israeli attack on Lebanon and Gaza and for drawing strength to re-energise the economic and political well beings of its people.
Bangladesh has a tolerant democracy that respects both western and Islamic values and it practices free market policies that could be a model to the OIC. The government should take extra initiative to mobilise the members specially the ME countries to make the Organisation operational as we are all lagging behind in global trade and economic activities. Luxemburg -- the tiniest EU country, used her vision and took the initiative in late 1950s for the European Economic Union which has become a reality.


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