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Does the voice of the OIC carry any clout?

Image Credit: Niño Jose Heredia/©Gulf News

By Tariq A. Al Maeena
January 22, 2017

The organisation ought to realise that releasing statements on Muslim-related hotspots alone cannot be a key justification for its existence

There are quite a few global and regional organisations from the United Nations to Nato, the Arab League, European Union... And then we have the OIC, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

It is a member government-funded organisation, which also happens to be the second largest inter-governmental organisation after the United Nations with a membership of 57 states. The OIC was established following a summit of Muslim nations in 1969. This organisation is preordained to be the collective voice of the entire Muslim world. Its mission is “to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world”.

In recent times, the OIC has come under fire from many quarters for its perceived inability in addressing state-sponsored terrorism against native Muslim populations. The decades-long Israeli transgressions on Palestinian lands and more recently, the massive genocide taking place in Myanmar against the native minority Rohingya community who are predominantly Muslim in a determined drive towards total ethnic cleansing.

So what does the OIC do to address the burning issues around the globe? In the Extraordinary Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers on the situation of the Rohingya Muslim minority of Myanmar, in Kuala Lumpur last Thursday, OIC Secretary-General, Dr Yousuf Al Othaimeen declared that enough was enough.

Charging that government brutality was fanning religious hatred, Al Othaimeen declared that the Myanmar government “should also put an end to acts of aggression that have no tenable or legitimate justifications against the Muslim community”. Expressing his disappointment with Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi to curb the situation against the minority Rohingya, the OIC chief stated that following her victory in the last elections, initially there was “hope that the nation would be entering the dawn of a new era for an inclusive government. The Myanmar government was expected to be responsive to the aspirations of its people without exercising any ethnic of religious segregation or discrimination”.

“Despite the progress that has been achieved in the democratic process and the transition to a new leadership, there is evidence of a sustained and organised campaign of violence and intimidation perpetrated against the Rohingya Muslims inside Myanmar. This was clearly indicated in the report issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussain last year, which documented a wide range of human rights violations and abuses against the minorities in Myanmar, particularly against the Rohingya community,” Al Othaimeen said.

Al Othaimeen insisted that the serious human rights problems identified by the United Nations in Myanmar could not be explained away as an internal matter of that country.

“I hope that all OIC member states, particularly those in Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations], will continue their efforts to urge the Myanmar authorities to allow access to humanitarian aid to the region and to allow transparent investigations to take place on the incidents of violence against Rohingya,” he concluded.

Relentless brutality

But the question here is will his words mean anything to those running the government in Myanmar? Since that statement was released, there have been countless numbers of Rohingya who have fallen victim to the ongoing and relentless brutality taking place in Myanmar. So what is the use of the OIC, an organisation whose existence has been debated before?

In 2011, a Turkish group initiated a debate that seriously questioned the utility of OIC. It asked: “While people are dying and enduring hardships across the Muslim world as a result of either occupation or foreign intervention, and their fates are being manipulated by western capitals and organisations, why has the OIC, which brings together all the Muslim states, remained silent?”

Others have charged that the OIC is nothing more than issuing a “string of resolutions on issues facing more than one billion Muslims worldwide. But meetings of Islamic countries, which have tremendous potential still to be realised, often end up as a ritualistic repetition of resolutions without any action or meaningful follow-up.”

While the OIC is a virtual non-factor in key issues concerning Muslims, like in Palestine, others wonder why Muslim countries, from Malaysia to Mauritania and from Turkey to Bosnia-Herzegovina that cover a strategic part of the world and have vast reservoirs of natural resources like oil and gas, plus billions of dollars in reserves, have yet to match their affluence with influence in international affairs.

Is it that this organisation, the OIC, has been reduced to be a money-draining ineffectual bureaucracy? Releasing statements on Muslim-related hotspots alone is not a key justification for its existence. Perhaps the money spent funding the OIC and their travel junkets would be better utilised by rehabilitating victims of oppression in the areas mentioned.

Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. You can follow him on Twitter at

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