Ms Summaiyya Qureshi completed her bachelor's degree in International Relations from the Lahore College for Women University, Lahore. Her areas of interest include geopolitics, foreign policy analysis, and nuclearization.
An Introduction to the OIC
History is full of catastrophic events that left their marks on the face of the world, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is also the product of a drastic event—the arson of Al-Aqsa Mosque in August 1969. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which refers to itself as “the collective voice of the Muslim world,” was founded in a historic summit held in Rabat, Morocco on 25th September 1969 (12th Rajab 1389 Hijra of the Islamic calendar).
Formerly, it was called the Organisation of Islamic Conference, which was changed to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in 2011. The OIC has 57 member states, of which 56 are sovereign, while one is in Palestine. Among the 56 sovereign OIC member states are Azerbaijan, the Kingdom of Jordan, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, etc.
The OIC’s permanent secretariat and headquarter is in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The organization has three basic organs—the Islamic Summit, the Council of Foreign Ministers, and the General Secretariat. The OIC holds its summit every three years, and it is attended by the head of states of member states, whereas the conference of foreign ministers is held every year. The secretary-general is the head of the OIC, and currently, OIC is headed by Hissein Brahim Taha.
There are also specialized organs under the banner of the organization, including the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), and subsidiary and affiliate organs. The OIC has its charter that has been designed mostly in the light of the Qur’an, sharia, and hadith.
The organization aims at promoting peace, cooperation, solidarity, and harmony between Muslim states and safeguarding the national sovereignty and independence of the OIC member states. It further aims to preserve Islamic values; it pledges to remove all types of racial discrimination and hatred against Muslims, especially in the case of Palestine. Protection of holy sites is also one of the major objectives of OIC.
The Institutionalization of OIC
A significant event on 21st August 1969 caused the formation of the OIC. On a Thursday morning, fire alarms started ringing in Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem signaling that the mosque was on fire. The Israeli occupation forces did not let anybody enter to tackle the fire. Fire extinguishers failed to work, and even water resources were broken.
Moreover, they did not let fire trucks from other cities like Nablus, Hebron, Ramallah, etc., reach the site, claiming that it was the Jerusalem municipalities responsibility. As an outcome of which, the oldest part of the mosque, its walls, ceiling, and the 900 years old wood gifted by Salah Uddin Al Ayubi, were also damaged.
There was a strike in Jerusalem as a reaction to which Israeli forces blocked all access points to the mosque. The culprit of the event was Dennis Michael Rohan, an Australian extremist Christian who was arrested on 23rd August but later declared mentally abnormal and hospitalized in a mental hospital. On 28th August, the Muslim majority states appealed to the United Nations Security Council in which Jordan’s ambassador, Mohammad Al Farah, stated:
“According to news that originated from Israeli sources, the Australian suspect is a friend of Israel who was brought by the Jewish Agency to work for Israel. The Jewish Agency arranged for the Australian to work in a Kibbutz for some months so that he could learn the Hebrew language and acquire more of the Zionist teaching… the life of this Australian in the Kibbutz and his dreams of building Solomon’s temple casts doubt on the case and adds to the fears and worries of the Muslims about their holy shrines; it also throws light on who is the criminal and who is the accomplice.”
The United Nations condemned the act and ordered Israel to not interfere in Jerusalem, but Israel ignored this resolution. As a result, a summit took place in Rabat, Morocco, on 25th September 1969. From the efforts of the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Morocco, a seven-membered committee was formed, which included Saudi Arabia, Iran, Somalia, Pakistan, Morocco, Nigeria, and Malaysia.
The first Islamic conference of foreign ministers was held in Jeddah in March 1970, and finally, the Charter of the Organization of the Islamic Conference was adopted in 1972. Other significant incidents that led to the formation of OIC include the Six-day Arab-Israel War of 1967 and the 1965 India-Pakistan War.
Islamabad Declaration: Resolutions Passed by the OIC
In the sessions of the Council of Foreign Ministers, the OIC passes different resolutions on the political affairs of its member states. In the 48th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers, the OIC representatives gathered in Islamabad from 22nd to 23rd of March, 2022, and concluded the Islamabad Declaration, passing the following resolutions. Before hosting the 48th session of the OIC, Pakistan had also hosted an OIC conference on Afghanistan in 2021.
Resolution to Support Afghanistan
Resolution no. 4/48-POL is concerned with the regional initiative in support of Afghanistan. This resolution recalls the need for sovereignty, independence, national unity, and territorial integrity in Afghanistan. It also recognizes Afghanistan as a crossroads connecting cultures, peoples, and civilizations. This resolution also welcomes different initiatives and mechanisms to enhance cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbors. It also acknowledges that terrorism poses a common threat to Afghanistan and the whole Asian region.
It encourages increasing cooperation against Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other extremist and terrorist groups. This declaration welcomes the outcome of the Tashkent Conference on Afghanistan on 27th March 2018. The declaration of the conference defines the peaceful settlement principles in Afghanistan and welcomes the initiative of the presidents of Uzbekistan and Pakistan in establishing relationships with Afghanistan. It further welcomes C5 + 1 cooperation, which is the cooperation between the Central Asian states and Afghanistan.
Resolution on Jammu and Kashmir
Resolution no. 8/48-POL, passed in the 48th Session of the OIC, is concerned with the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. It reaffirms the right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The 48th Session of the OIC recalls the special declaration on Jammu and Kashmir adopted by the 7th, 10th, and 11th sessions of the Islamic Summit. Moreover, the Islamabad Declaration denounces India’s illegal and unilateral actions that violate the United Nations Security Council resolution. Moreover, it rejects “the Jammu and Kashmir reorganization order, 2020” and the “Jammu and Kashmir grant of domicile certificate rule, 2020“.
It further alarms that repression and militarization of the occupied Kashmir can cause forced displacement of the Kashmiri people. Finally, it recalls UNSC Resolution 47, which says, “All citizens of the state that have left it on account of disturbance are invited and are free to return to their homes and exercise their rights as citizens.” It recalls that the position of the United Nations on Jammu Kashmir was “governed by the Charter of the United Nations and applicable Security Council resolution.”
The Islamabad Declaration acknowledges the fact that the non-resolution of this dispute has led India and Pakistan to war and near-war situations. It further acknowledges the state-sponsored terrorism and crimes against the Kashmiris. It denounces restrictions on the fundamental rights of the Kashmiri people, especially their freedom to have an opinion and practice their religion. It further deplored that India has exploited the current COVID-19 situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
This resolution further expresses condolences over the demise of Syed Ali Shah Geelani of Kashmir as he was very loyal to Kashmir’s cause. It further shows concern due to the finding of the report by the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC), which documented the gross human rights violation in Kashmir. It further calls upon Indian authority to ensure that those people who violate Kashmiri rights are held accountable. It requests the UNSC to monitor the situation in Kashmir actively.
India-Pakistan Peace Process
In the Islamabad Declaration, the OIC addresses the peace process between India and Pakistan under Resolution no. 9/48-POL. This resolution appreciates Pakistan’s struggle for the people of Kashmir and expresses solidarity with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It recognizes the need for a dialogue process between India and Pakistan to resolve different disputes for peace and stability in South Asia.
In the 48th session of the OIC and the Islamabad Declaration, the organization acknowledged that peace dialogue has been delayed due to India’s behavior. It expresses concern for rhetoric and war jingoism by the Indian leadership. Furthermore, it recognizes the critical role of a united nationality observer group in India and Pakistan that monitors ceasefire violations along the line of control. Finally, this resolution welcomes the efforts made by some OIC member states toward the de-escalation of conflict between India and Pakistan.
OIC and Syria
In the 48th session of the OIC, the organization’s member states adopted Resolution no. 5/48-POL on the situation in Syria. The resolution emphasizes the OIC’s position on the need to preserve the sovereignty, independence, social harmony, unity, and territorial integrity of Syria. It welcomes the cooperation and effort of Turkey, Russia, and Iran to implement CBMs (confidence-building measures). This resolution stands against separatist agendas that threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and the national security of neighboring states.
It condemns attacks by the regime, foreign militia, Al-Qaeda, Daesh, Al Nusrat Front, YPG, and any other terrorist organization against the people of Syria in the Syrian war. This resolution expresses its outrage at the increasing number of casualties, refugees, and displacements and pays tribute to neighboring countries such as Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Sudan for hosting millions of Syrian refugees.
It also emphasizes the importance of the formulation of the constitutional committee. Furthermore, it expressed its gratitude to the government of UAE for helping the Syrian Arab Republic sign a cooperation agreement with a French agency for technical corporation and development to finance the humanity and reef assistance to the affected population for 7.3 million AED. Finally, it also condemns the Zionist regime’s airstrikes against Syria.
Resolution on Disarmament & Non-proliferation
Resolution no. 23/48-POL of the Islamabad Declaration focuses on evolving a new global consensus on disarmament and non-proliferation. It shows its concern over the continuous lacking of the process of disarmament and non-proliferation and its negative impact on the peace of the international community. It further recognized that the resolution aims to preserve International and regional peace and security.
Furthermore, it reaffirms the central role and responsibility of the United Nations in the field of disarmament. Moreover, it calls upon members of multilateral export control regimes to adopt non-discriminatory policies for access to nuclear and other dual-use technology for peaceful purposes. Finally, it emphasizes the importance of multilateralism in disarmament, arms control, and non-proliferation.
Resolution no. 25/48-POL on regional military balance recalls the purpose of the UN Charter, recognizing the military imbalance at a regional and sub-regional level. It also acknowledges the need to enhance regional security and stability through the settlement of disputes. It further calls upon the international community to adopt measures to ease global and regional tensions.
Nuclear Weapons & the Middle East
Resolution no. 26/48-POL of the Islamabad Declaration on establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East recalls that the purpose of charters of the UN and OIC is to maintain international peace and security. It conceives that the Israeli regime owning a nuclear facility in the Middle East is a threat to the OIC member states and international peace and security.
It considers the need to implement the comprehensive safeguards regime of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on all the nuclear facilities in the Middle East. It further calls on Israel to accede to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) without further delay. The resolution strongly condemns Israeli attacks and threats and calls upon nuclear-weapon states to work urgently toward multilateral negotiation. It decided to include an item entitled “Israeli nuclear capability and threats” in the agenda of the ministerial conferences.
Resolution on Islamophobia
Resolution no. 32/48-POL of the Islamabad Declaration on combating the rise of Islamophobia and eliminating hatred and prejudice against Islam recognizes that moderation is an integral approach to counter all forms of racism, including Islamophobia. It recalls the OIC’s objective to eliminate discrimination in all forms. It also emphasizes the Istanbul Declaration and that “Islamophobia is a human right violation and a contemporary manifestation of racism.”
In the 48th Session of the OIC and in the Islamabad Declaration, the organization has expressed concern about increasing hate crimes against Muslims and the demonization of Muslims. In the 48th session, the OIC has also shown its grave concern about the rise of populist politics against the Muslim population. The resolution expresses concern over the increasing level of Islamophobia in many Western countries, including France. It calls upon the concerned non-OIC member states to take strict action against their public representatives if they spread hate speech against Muslims. It further appreciates former Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Tayyip Erdogan countering hate speech and Islamophobia during the 74th session of the UNGA in New York.
Why is the OIC Ineffective?
The only success of the OIC to date is that it is still functioning; other than that, the OIC has failed its objectives and purpose. The first failure of the OIC can be traced back to the 1973 oil embargo which led to the Yom Kippur war, ultimately resulting in Arab failure. Before that, there was an outbreak of war between India and Pakistan in 1971 that led to the separation of East and West Pakistan.
Moreover, in the 1980s, a war broke out between Iran and Iraq which lasted for almost eight years. After the formation of OIC, this was the first war in which both parties were the Muslim states. Furthermore, the 1990s Gulf War fought between Iraq and Kuwait, the demolition of the Babri Masjid in India in 1992, the US intervention in Afghanistan in 2003, and the Saudi war in Yemen in 2015, along with the unresolved conflicts on which the OIC was based, have caused the organization to fail.
Other than that, the OIC has not been able to tackle civil unrest in Syria caused during the Arab Spring and has suspended Syria’s membership. So, the OIC has not been able to tackle these issues and has dealt a mortal blow to the Muslim world’s solidarity, majesty, and sovereignty. Overall, the OIC has never been effective, and the absence of effectiveness is because there is no conflict resolution mechanism.
Not even one OIC state is in the top 20 states of the Human Development Index or any economic indicators. OIC member states possess almost two-thirds of the planet’s oil and gas reserves, but still, the GDP of OIC states is only 15.2% of the global GDP. There is a lack of technological research and education, and there is no sense of collective responsibility among the member states.
Plus, most member states of OIC have been under the influence of major powers like in the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq was under the influence of the US, the UK, and France. Moreover, in the Iraq-Kuwait war, Iraq had absolutely no specific reason to attack Kuwait. We see that the sectarian issues between the Muslim states have badly influenced the working of OIC, and because of these issues, there are no lobbies in OIC. For instance, in the Saudi invasion of Yemen in 2015, Yemen was backed by Iran.
The OIC members have diverted away from the very first goal, which was to help Palestine and its people. Many states are now forming diplomatic ties with Israel, including Morocco, Bahrain, UAE, Sudan, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, and Qatar, have agreed on economic relations, and Cameroon even has military and political ties.
Almost 17 out of the 22 members of the Arab League have recognized Israel. Besides, because of other organizations like GCC and Arab League, it became complicated for the member states to stay neutral and work for the objectives of OIC and prefer them over their national interests. These factors have slowed down the performance and effectiveness of OIC, leading it to be only a named organization while the Arab-Israel relations have strengthened.
Future of the OIC
It is time to enhance cooperation among OIC member states, and it is the demand of the present Islamic world. With globalization dominating the world, there is a core need for cooperation between OIC members in economics, politics, and the social sector. The Muslim states cannot just work like colonies of significant powers, and they have to protect their sovereignty. Moreover, to counter Islamophobia, it is the need of the hour that the Islamic world presents a counter-message to anti-Islamic sentiments.
There is a lack of democracy, a defense system, and effective leadership for which OIC members have made the “OIC-2025: Programme of Action” that has set 107 goals. Some of the areas of priority under this programme are Palestine and Al-Quds, counter-terrorism, extremism, sectarianism, Islamophobia, modernization, peace and security, environment, climate change and sustainability, poverty elevation, and trade investment. If the OIC succeeds in achieving its 2025 goals and fully implement the Islamabad Declaration adopted in its 48th session, then its future is promising. Otherwise, it is now time for a new and effective Islamic state organization.
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