Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recently stated that the Muslim world was in “state of crisis”. He was right in more ways than one.
From military and political upheavals of African Muslim countries like Libya and Sudan to devastating wars in Iraq, Yemen and Syria in the wider Arab world to relentless strife in places like Afghanistan Muslim world is in ferment. Add to this suppression of political will in Kashmir to genocide of Rohingya in Asia, Muslim world is far away from better times but rather plunging deeper in the chaos.
African countries are reeling under massive poverty despite having abundance of resources which have been left to be exploited by European countries like France. And more misery is sure to come If strategies are not changed.
Recent summit meet in Malaysia of major Muslim powers was an outcome of this growing frustration amongst those Muslim leaders who retain semblance of freedom and have intellectual depth to offer solutions. They are the ones among long list of 54 countries which are desperately seeking a life of dignity and peace for their people and wider Ummah. This meet was an attempt to create a parallel platform to now virtually defunct OIC.
These progressive and militarily more powerful Muslim countries under visionary leadership could sense the urgency of coming together and put their heads together for a new vision and roadmap. Pakistan and Turkey were seen as the key players behind the move with support of Iran, Qatar and host country Malaysia. Iran is considered diplomatically, strategically and militarily powerful amongst Muslim world while Qatar is a very resource rich country. Most of the Arab nations saw this summit as a challenge to their monopoly over Muslim affairs thus far. These petro-rich Arab states not only refused to participate but forced some other members, like Pakistan to backout from the summit.
Syria is one of contentious issue that has the potential to create hurdle in further consolidation of this new Muslim alliance. Battle for Idlib in particular has brought Turkey and Syria face to face militarily. While Syrian military is backed by Russia and Iran, rebels holed up in Idlib, their last stronghold, have backing of Turkey, the only Muslim NATO member besides the wider West. Here lies the catch.
Since West has succeeded in portraying Syrian war as sectarian Turks have wittingly or unwittingly fallen in the trap. By siding with the rebels, who happen to be mostly Sunni’s, President Erdogan wants to be seen as champion of Sunni causes worldwide even though he has failed to extend similar military or even diplomatic support to Sunni Palestinians in Gaza who mainly rely on support from Shia Iran. Interestingly Turkey is among the handful of Muslim countries maintaining cordial diplomatic relationship with Israel. It is imperative on both Turkey and Iran to rise above and beyond narrow diplomatic gains for a much larger cause.
Today if Russia has regained its respect in the world the credit would go majorly to its pro-active role in Syria other than annexation of Crimea. And Russia could not do what it achieved in Syria without the Iranian help on ground. So if Turkey and Iran collaborates it will not only set an example for the rest of the Muslim world but can give Tehran and Ankara bargaining power even with Russia. As Russian economy is nowhere close to Americas Moscow cannot afford getting bogged down in a long term conflict.
Last week Trump administration gave a statement hinting that the Iranian government should be thankful to Pakistani administration, especially to Imran Khan for timely intervention in support of Iran after Qassim Solemeini’s assasination. Pakistan and Turkey share a very special relationship. They have even announced their intentions of dual citizenship which can take care of the crucial foreign remittances Pakistan receives from Persian Gulf countries. So Iran needs not to be apprehensive and suspicious of its brother countries.
Another issue which is worrisome for Iran is Pakistan’s support to Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan should also explain to Iran about how it plans to support Taliban while keeping Iran’s security and well being in consideration.
All these countries are acting in the name of religion so they should keep the idea of sacrifice of small interest in mind for greater unity as it is the essence of Islam.
Need for a new OIC
OIC has so far failed to unify Ummah or even rise to the level where it could be counted as a significant voice among the commity of nations. The only politics from the current leadership of OIC was divisive and of hate, creating different groups within the Muslim world which are perpetually at war with each other. The nucleus of radical politics happens to be the host country of OIC which enjoys extraordinary support from Western world. And ironically the same ideology is demonized for all the right reasons in the Western media so as to justify and make a pretext for their invasions of other resource rich Muslim countries.
Keeping the Muslim world divided is economically good for West and politically suites the Israeli state which has a very strong lobby in America. Certain Arab countries were present in the room to show support to the ‘Deal of the Century’ a new Israel-Palestine plan drafted by Trump’s Jewish son-in-law announced recently. The new plan is aimed at securing Israeli interests both legal and illegal and is diametrically opposed to pre-1967 position demanded by Palestine which is backed by various UN resolutions. Closeness of Saudi government with Mr Trump and Israel has left the whole Muslim Ummah shocked. This numbness from Arab masses over core issues shows lack of awareness, indignity and intellectual bankruptcy of the Arab world. Soon after the announcement of Trump plan one more shocker came in from Saudi government. It has disallowed OIC meet called by Pakistan over Kashmir issue. Similar actions in the past like awarding of highest civilian award to President Trump and Prime Minister Modi by Saudi, UAE and Bahrain have send wrong signals to the Islamic world. These sort of events leave deep psychological impact and suspicion in the masses and psychologically breaks their morale.
Diplomacy is a scale for the measurement of strength of brain where OIC members individually and collectively have been a big failure till now. Strong and effective diplomacy not only includes knowing about your own strength and weaknesses but the level of knowledge and awareness one has about the political dynamics of the whole world. Arabs could have used vast economic resources as a big leverage while negotiating with their adversaries. Intelligent diplomacy and unity could have helped OIC members to carve a space for themselves in today’s multi polar world. But alas Arab countries led by Gulf Sheikhdoms consumed these resources in fuelling further strife in the Ummah by launching endless conflicts based on sectarian and narrow political goals.
With a good beginning made at Kuala Lumpur, Turkey, Iran and Malaysia need to move forward and give their alliance a formal shape. With Imran Khan of Pakistan now falling in line though belatedly after realising the blunder he made at the behest of Saudi’s, it is right time to bid OIC a goodbye and launch OIC in its new avatar for the collective good of Ummah.