OIC politicking | Editorial
UNITY in the Muslim world has been a distant dream, with sectarian, nationalist and other factors often cropping up to fuel division. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has, in particular, been ineffectual in promoting unity and the common interests of over a billion Muslims across the globe. What is worse, the organisation is often used by some Muslim states as a political vehicle to denounce and demonise their geopolitical rivals within the OIC. This was sadly the message that emanated from a series of meetings held in Makkah over the past few days. Early on Saturday morning, the Saudi monarch used the OIC summit held in Islam’s holiest city to denounce Iran’s “sabotage”, referring to recent Houthi strikes on Saudi oil pipelines, as well as attacks by as yet unidentified assailants on oil tankers in the Gulf. The Saudis’ tone towards Iran at the summits of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab League preceding the OIC conclave was even harsher. Riyadh accused Tehran of indulging in “criminal acts” while the Arabs — with the exception of Iraq — rallied around the Saudis in denouncing Iran and called upon “the international community to take a firm stand to confront Iran”. Tehran has reacted to the statements in kind, accusing Riyadh of “sowing division” and towing the “American and Zionist” line.
Ideally, if any OIC member has issues with another, instead of indulging in mudslinging publicly, the good offices of a third country should be used to resolve the issues. However, the reality is that the OIC and other multilateral Arab and Islamic forums are often seen as being used by Saudi Arabia to forward its geopolitical aims. Moreover, the ongoing Saudi-Iranian spat has an unseemly sectarian flavour to it, reflected in the fact that Iraq — an Arab country — refused to denounce Iran, considering its own Shia population.
In the shadow of such internal bickering, other issues — some would say the ‘real’ issues plaguing the Muslim world — were also raised, including by this country’s prime minister during the OIC summit. The proverbial burning issues of Palestine, Kashmir, the shocking plight of the Rohingya as well as the hateful march of Islamophobia all were highlighted. But how can the Muslim world, and others, take such pronouncements seriously when there is a profound lack of unity and clear divisions within the OIC? The issues are indeed grave; the Palestinian dream of a state risks being shattered by US President Donald Trump’s ‘deal of the century’. In Kashmir, India continues to use brutal tactics against the held region’s people while the misery of the Rohingya shows no sign of abating. The OIC — with the combined petrochemical wealth and manpower of its members — has huge potential to address the ills of the Muslim world and the global community in general. But how can these energies be harnessed when the forum is used to forward petty agendas and promote division?