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Islam and Politics ( 22 Jan 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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OIC and the Pressing Issues of the Muslim Ummah



By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

January 21, 2014

Al Aqusa Mosque in Al-Quds (Jerusalem) was the first Quiblah (direction during prayer) of Muslims to which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) made his Night Journey (Isra). Jerusalem is the third holy city of Muslims. Israel occupied the western part of the city during the war in 1948 and later annexed it. In 1967, Israel captured East Jerusalem and subsequently annexed it. Israel then announced it as the Jewish nation’s permanent capital.

Even though there have been several international resolutions that consider Jerusalem as one of the occupied territories, Israel has not attached significance to any of them. On the other hand, it has constantly been pursuing a policy of Judaising Jerusalem and other parts of the occupied West Bank. The Jewish state has given Hebrew names to several places in the occupied territories. All these were in defiance of the decisions of the international community and international resolutions, conventions and agreements pertaining to the Palestinian issue.

Israel is also not ready to respect the accords signed with the Palestinian Authority, including the Oslo Accords. It has already been proved that Israel is not at all serious and prepared to achieve peace with the Palestinians. On the other hand, it has deliberately been delaying things so as to further consolidate occupation and continue Judaisation by building more and more settlements, in addition to expanding the existing ones. It continues a policy of encouraging settlers and constructing a segregation wall, besides striving to change the demographic structure of Jerusalem.

Apart from this, Israel has been committing all types of crimes, including killing, displacement, detention and the demolition of homes of Palestinians under false pretenses, besides bulldozing their lands and denying permission for any construction activity. The occupiers are forcing Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to leave their homes and villages by exercising all sorts of pressure tactics. All of this is aimed at the eviction of the Arab population from Jerusalem so as to Judaise it in defiance of everyone.  

The issue of Jerusalem is not one for Palestinians only, but rather it is an issue of importance for Arabs and Muslims in general. It is a well-known fact that the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was established for the cause of Palestine, and Jerusalem in particular, after the burning of Al-Aqusa Mosque in 1969. According to the statutes of the pan-Islamic body, Jerusalem is the permanent headquarters of the OIC. The Organization made Jeddah its temporary headquarters until the liberation of Jerusalem. A committee, namely Al-Quds Committee, headed by the late King Hassan II of Morocco was formed to resist the confiscation of Palestinian land and assets in occupied Jerusalem, and I do not know who took over the presidency after his death.

I regret to point out that the OIC’s keenness in the case of Jerusalem has diminished considerably, and no one heard anything about Al-Quds Committee and its activities for a long time until the recent meeting held in Morocco. This is also the case with the Jerusalem Fund which was established earlier.

The Organization itself has been content to make routine statements, especially after its expansion, as the body has now become preoccupied with its own matters and that of its employees and their privileges. In recent decades, the OIC has lost its capabilities and competence, and has failed to undertake its significant role in serving Islamic causes, the foremost of which is the issue of Jerusalem and Israel’s continuous attempts to Judaise it.

I have written more than one article in which I have criticized the OIC and its secretary general with regard to the issues of Palestine, Jerusalem and the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. I was astonished that the secretary general earlier failed to respond to a formal invitation extended to him by the president of Myanmar in order to visit the country. On the other hand, he was satisfied with sending a letter to US President Barack Obama, asking him to discuss the issue of the Rohingya Muslims during his visit to Myanmar.

It would have been more useful and helpful if he had accepted the invitation and visited the country, leading a high-profile delegation representing influential Muslim states, plus a strong media team. Had this happened, it would have been put the Myanmar authorities in an embarrassing position and made them change their position, as this invitation came immediately after the Extraordinary Islamic Solidarity Summit, called by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah in August 2012. In a strongly-worded statement, the Summit described the situation of the Rohingya Muslims as tragic and assigned the OIC to closely follow up the subject. But, unfortunately, the Organization did not seize the opportunity to improve the lot of the afflicted Rohingya Muslims.

However, later, the Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu paid a visit to Myanmar in November 2013, a few weeks before the expiry of his nine-year tenure at the helm of the OIC. But his visit, leading a delegation comprising representatives of a number of member countries, was not a success as the Myanmar government did not pay any heed to it. On the other hand, some Buddhist extremists took to the streets in protest against the delegation and its visit.

Instead of condemning the arbitrary practices being pursued by the Myanmar authorities against Muslims, especially depriving them of their citizenship in a country where they and their fathers and forefathers were born and raised, the delegation was forced to defend its presence in the country by stating that it had neither a political nor a religious agenda but was only a relief mission. Thus, the delegation missed a good chance to serve the Rohingya Muslims. 

Now, a new secretary general has been chosen for the Organization. Iyad Madani is well known for his brilliant ideas, sagacity, efficiency and enthusiasm toward the issues of the Muslim Ummah. Hopefully, he will provide the OIC with good leadership and activate it so that as the largest international organization after the United Nations, it can shoulder its responsibilities in serving Islamic causes, foremost of which is the Palestine issue, particularly Jerusalem. As far as the OIC is concerned, this should be the mother of all issues. It should also address the issue of the Rohingya Muslims who have been subjected to ethnic cleansing and all forms of persecution.

During a dinner party, hosted in honor of the Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, I suggested  that the former secretary general of the OIC undertake a whirlwind tour of the OIC member states, and take part in conferences, hold meetings with leaders and make press statements with the purpose of giving maximum publicity and attention to the cause of Jerusalem.

I have the pleasure to present the same proposal to the new secretary general. Perhaps, he is not in need of it as the topic is supposed to be among his top priorities and in the forefront of the programs he intends to implement. May Allah bless him.   

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs.