OIC: Organization of Islamic Conference-Cooperation-Community?

EDITORIAL, 18 Jul 2011

#173 | Abbas Aroua & Johan Galtung, 18 Jul 2011 - TRANSCEND Media Service

Pre‑islamic Arabia lived for a long time under various forms of asabiya: chauvinism to the Arab race (arabism), to the tribe (tribalism), or to a clan within the tribe (clanism). This was the source of many long lasting wars.  But, in 610, Prophet Muhammad, 40 years old, received the first verses of Al‑Quran, challenging the social and political order.  Asabiya yielded to brotherhood-sisterhood in a community of values, the Umma, from Umm, mother.  Arabs engaged with enthusiasm in this new “matriotism” based on an islamic religion stating that “there is no difference between an Arab and a non‑Arab, or between a White and a Black, except by degree of piety”. Blood, race, ethnic group, color, gender etc. vanished in favor of oneness of origin, freedom, justice, and above all rahma (true love).

The Umma was guided by the Prophet, and ruled after his death by the Rightly Guided Successors (al‑Khulafa, ar‑Rashidun).  But only 30 years after the death of the Prophet, in 661, the values he taught were violated, and the political order was corrupted, back to asabiya.

Thus began a long decline of muslim society.  Even though there was a formal Khilafa (Caliphate), the Umma was split into countless political‑military fragments based on repression and corruption. Autocracy and cleptocracy became the rule.  At the end this would open the doors to various forms of external aggression, and by the 19th century the seeds of “colonisability”–a term coined by Algerian philosopher Malek Bennabi–were there.  Colonization became easy. In 1924 the Ottoman Caliphate was dismantled.

After the political independence, the political elites imported the secularist nation‑state model and imposed it on their populations.  Nation‑based asabiya (nationalism) was born; Arabism, Turanism (Turkey) and Persianism being some of its expressions, necessarily leading to minority‑based asabiya: Kurdism, Berberism, etc.

Regional organizations emerged in the Umma geographic space from West Africa to the Far East; the oldest one being the League of Arab States founded in 22 March 1945–seven months before the UN in 24 October 1945–today with 22 Member States: to “foster economic growth in the region, to resolve disputes between its members, and to coordinate political aims”, but 66 years have brought neither peace nor prosperity to the Arab world.  But it was always undermined by the asabiya of its members and their contradictory goals, and by foreign interference and influence. The only operational body is the Council of the Ministers of Interior, which coordinates their repressive policies.

On 25 September 1969 a larger organization was founded by leaders of muslim states at a conference in Rabat to safeguard the interests of the Umma–a political reaction to the arson inside al‑Aqsa Mosque in al‑Quds (Jerusalem) by Denis Michael Rohan on 21 August 1969.  The muslim leaders would have preferred Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), but countries with large non‑Muslim minorities objected.  They kept OIC with “C” meaning Conference, a reference to the Rabat Summit.

Almost 42 years after its creation, on 28 June 2011, during the 38th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of OIC held at Astana, Kazakhstan, the Member States agreed to change the name to the Organization for Islamic Cooperation. OIC is always there, but “C” now standing for Cooperation, not for Conference.

According to an OIC press release, “the new resolution reflects a qualitative shift in the performance of the Organization and enormous enhancement of its effectiveness as an international organization active in diverse areas of politics, economy, culture and society.”     With its 57 Member States spread over four continents, the OIC is the IGO No. 2, after the UN.  It should and will have a say and an active role in a globalized world increasingly structured around regional entities.

With greater freedom and prosperity, its 1.6 billion constituency will push towards more economic and even political integration.  In spite of opposition by imperialist and neo‑colonial powers, this will lead to an Organization of the Islamic Community: a 21st century Umma‑Khilafa model.  The Islamic Community will not be a chauvinist entity built on the antagonism with others, but rather an open space based on “C‑inside, C‑outside”, Consolidation of muslim unity, and Cooperation with others for peace and prosperity for all humanity.

Could an Organization of the islamic Community institutionalize a vision of a peaceful Islam, the dar-al-Islam, opposed to the rest, the dar-al-harb, the realm of war?  The European Community-Union is also built on the vision of a Europe with inter-state wars not only ruled out, but “unthinkable”.  But this argument leaves out the third realm: the dar-al-ahd of treaties, pacts, for instance between a future OIC and the EU, in a regionalizing, potentially more mature world.  And important preparatory work has been done in EU-OIC dialogues.

The new OIC of cooperation will pose a major challenge to the UN.  Of the five present Security Council veto powers, four are christian (one evangelical, one anglican, one catholic-secular, one orthodox), and one daoist-confucian-buddhist.  OIC outsizes them all, even China.

This is not only totally unfair, taking into account that the borders fragmenting the islamic community were mainly drawn by those Western powers, but also makes UNSC resolutions against muslim countries illegitimate.  Muslim veto power could have saved many human lives, and the USA-West against unwise policies, and opened for a more balanced UN and more regional action.  An updated Security Council would accommodate the OIC; and the EU rather than two of its members.  The idea of collectivities of states is enshrined in the Charter for defense, facilitating a transition from the world of 1945 to the world today. But even better would be a “Uniting for Peace” Member States democracy of states, with no sabotage from powers living in the past.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 18 Jul 2011.

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6 Responses to “OIC: Organization of Islamic Conference-Cooperation-Community?”

  1. satoshi says:

    Please allow me to provide you with four comments as follows:

    First: The United Nations, as its name indicates, was established as an international organization, primarily composed of the states of the “United Nations” or of the Allied powers of WWII. ((i) There were no Muslim countries in the Allies in WWII except Ethiopia. (ii) It is debatable to determine the-then Union of South Africa as a Muslim nation.) The UN changed significantly over the decades. Nonetheless, that its basic structure and systems, including UNSC, have remained to this date as they were when the Organization was founded at the end of WWII causes and creates the unfairness among nations and peoples, as Prof. Galtung points out in the latter part of the essay above.

    Second: The problem is not only the “voice” of Muslims which can hardly reach UNSC. Think of African countries, consisting of more than 1/4 of all the Members of the UN and having more than 1/5 of the world population. Which of five permanent powers (that have vetoes) listens to the voice of Africa? Except China, all other big four are overall Western or Christian powers (whether Russia is a “Western” power or not is another discussion so that it is not discussed in my comment here) that cook “African affairs” in the name of UNSC Resolutions that legally bind the Members, including those of African countries. Imagine that some people outside your cultural sphere discuss your problems, that they poorly understand you, your culture and your problems, and that they decide something about you, and that they legally bind you then. What do you think? The same thing can be said of issues of the Muslim community as mentioned in Prof. Galtung’s essay above.

    Third: If the UN will be fundamentally changed someday, one of the things to change is perhaps the name of the organization, not only the structure and systems. (Or to establish another universal organization about which some people might nickname the “second UN”? If so (or even if not so), the Preamble should read “We, peoples of the world…” not “We, peoples of the United Nations…” Well but, if any, wait for at least one or more centuries… You never know. Proverb: “Let the future tell but the future starts today; the future does not start in the future.”)

    Fourth: The main subjects of this weekly editorial are about the relation between OIC and Western countries and, in that regard, the similar relation between UNSC and OIC. But all these matters are closely related to what I briefly mentioned above; they are so closely knitted that it is difficult to discuss these matters separately.


    By the way, I am one of those who are constantly surprised by Prof. Galtung’s broad range and huge amount of knowledge, which enriches and makes the weekly editorials different. Thank you very much, Prof. Galtung, for your interesting and stimulating discussions every week, including the one this week! May peace be with you and peace be with everyone in the world!

  2. Ove Thygesen says:

    Thinking of the tragedy in Oslo, this is what people should study and discuss – more than who did what and when and what neighbours are involved.

  3. satoshi says:

    Regarding the tragedy in Oslo, it is a tragedy in two (or more) ways because Oslo is the place of the Nobel “Peace” Prize.

    I hereby express my sincerest condolences to relatives of the victims and their friends.

    Peace studies and peace work should be promoted more!

  4. I agree with Mr. galtung.

  5. […] Cooperation (from “Conference”), believing it was less frightening or portentous, and more pacific and […]