With the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) hitting the half-century mark, there is a need for it to engage in introspection as the Muslim world needs committed leadership, said an OIC commissioner.
The Muslim world has been denied such leadership ever since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, but a recently announced initiative between Turkey, Malaysia, and Pakistan raises hope and shows the way forward, said Ahmad Azam Ab Rahman.
Ahmad Azam Ab Rahman is Commissioner of OIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC)
“The Muslim Ummah [nation] is a body without a head,” he told Anadolu Agency in an interview during a trip to Turkey.
A prominent Muslim activist from Malaysia, Ahmad Azam was elected one of 18 commissioners to the OIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) early this year.
“Muslims are facing a lot of problems. They cannot be resolved because there is no leadership,” he said, referring to the issues of Palestine, Kashmir, the Moros, Patani, the Rohingya and Uighurs.
He said the question of human rights in these regions is “clearly transgression without doubt.”
“[But] still, the [Muslim] Ummah is not united on this issue [of human rights]. It is time we must look back to the role of the OIC,” he said.
“By looking at the 50 years of the OIC, politically, it seems to be very, very weak,” he asserted.
However, Ahmad Azam believes the multi-lateral Muslim body should not be judged in terms of politics only.
“Other than politics, I think it has not been given due credit like in education, culture, Halal projects … It has done really something substantial.”
‘More countries should join trilateral solidarity’
Ahmad Azam said the leaders of Turkey, Malaysia, and Pakistan have the potential to lead the Muslim world and their cooperation can change the fortunes of this part of the world.
“Now when Malaysia and Pakistan are willing to work with Turkey on the issue of fighting Islamophobia, it is the right way forward. We should support this, and we hope it will encourage more cooperation, resolve, and commitment from other OIC countries,” he said.
The OIC is a multilateral body of 57 Muslim-majority nations and the second-largest intergovernmental organization in the world after the United Nations.
“I see the leadership of [Turkish] President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has inspired the Muslim world to be united. He has provided leadership to Muslims which has inspired the Muslim world to look at him, to look at Turkey as the answer to these 50 years of the OIC,” he said.
According to Ahmad Azam, Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan can give a “real alternative for the Ummah to rise.”
UN mandates referendum to Kashmiris
Lamenting no follow-up of OIC declarations, Ahmad Azam said: “OIC declarations are very good, but its actions are very weak.”
He asserted that Muslim countries need to speak for suppressed people even if they face economic consequences.
“The issue of Palestine and Kashmir will continue; it is a long struggle. It is mandated by the UN to have a referendum in Kashmir but has been ignored by India,” he said.
“Politically, more and more leaders must voice their support for Kashmir’s right to a referendum. But at the same time, we must not let the young people continue [only] demonstrations without proper education.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, and President Erdogan expressed open support in the UN, he said.
To counter economic challenges, Ahmad Azam said the role of the D-8 Organization for Economic Cooperation, also known as the Developing-8, is important.
“There are a lot of opportunities where Muslim countries can harness economic potential. We are only stuck with political [conflicts] that we neglect the economic cooperation of the Muslim world,” he said, adding the D-8 should be revived to strengthen economic cooperation among Muslim nations.
The D-8 aims to develop cooperation among Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Turkey.
Financial support to students from conflict-hit regions
Ahmad Azam said the Muslim world should come forward and provide opportunities for fellowships and scholarships to Palestinian, Kashmiri, the Rohingya, and Syrian students across the world.
“After 10 years, you [will] see the results. These young people will come out highly educated and continue their struggle in a much more professional way with an academically sound approach,” he said.
“Young people must be connected and know each other. This is how it is possible.”
Ahmad Azam, however, said that providing scholarships and raising voices from the Muslim countries should be “without concern of favor” for anyone.
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