by Zafar Bangash (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 34, No. 11, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1426)
The Muslim Ummah is in such desperate need of unity of purpose and action that any attempt to foster such behaviour is welcomed by Muslims everywhere. It would, however, be unrealistic to expect that such unity will come about through the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which held an “Extraordinary Summit” in Makkah on December 7-8, 2005, and issued a ringing call, called the Makkah Declaration, adopting a 10-year Programme of Action for the Ummah. Why this particular summit should be dubbed “extraordinary” is unclear, unless of course, it was because it was attended by “Kings, Heads of State and Government, and Emirs of the Member States”.
The Makkah Declaration
“We, the Kings, Heads of State and Government, and Emirs of the Member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), meeting in the Third Session of the Extraordinary Islamic Summit Conference, held in Makkah Al-Mukarramah from 5-6 Dhul Qa‘dah 1426H (7-8 December 2005), declare:
“Whereas the purport of the lofty essence of Islam was to ultimately bring the world out of the darkness of ignorance, oppression, and tyranny and into the light of truth, justice, developing sciences and knowledge, and peaceful co-existence, we find ourselves today in an age of muddled concepts, misguided values, and pervasive ignorance, as diseases and epidemics gain ever-greater grounds, injustice takes hold, and man's environment grows despoiled by the day. More than ever before, we stand in dire need of a fresh vision to turn the tide and the Ummah, as Almighty Allah has rightfully ordained, into a guiding beacon and source of light that radiates forth science, knowledge, and morality for the benefit of all humanity.
“Protecting our Islamic identity, our basic values, and the higher interests of the Ummah can only be achieved through the sincere loyalty of Muslims to true Islam and their commitment to its original principles and values as their cherished way of life. Only then will the Ummah be able to rise to the challenge of playing an instrumental, proactive role in the service of humanity and human civilization.
“Therefore, our conscience throbs in deep synchronicity with the hearts and minds of the Ummah as expressed by its scholars and intellectuals—may God bless them on our behalf—in their meeting only weeks before [September 2005] this Summit Conference. Thus we are only too aware of the political, developmental, social, cultural and educational challenges they brought to the fore; also, we are only too aware of the internal and external threats that have helped to exacerbate the Ummah's current plight, as they not only menace its future but also that of the whole of humanity and civilization.
“These challenges must, therefore, be dealt with through a strategic vision, which needs to plan for the future of the Ummah just as it needs to maintain a responsive pulse to international developments so as to gradually refine itself into a forward-looking vision that enables the Muslim world to tackle the challenges of the Twenty-first Century by leveraging the collective will and Joint Islamic Action.
“At this stage, we are consequently called upon to take pause for a sincere and firm reflection on reforming the Ummah, which is a process that starts with reforming the self by rallying round a common stand based on Almighty Allah's Noble Qur'an and the Noble Tradition of His Prophet (upon whom be peace). This reform process should then naturally end in a staunch counteraction of any miscreants who would wantonly work evil sedition, who would misguide and mislead, and would distort the loftiest tenets of our Islamic faith enshrined in its intrinsic call for love, peace, harmony, and the civilized way out. How can they speak and act for such perverted ideas entrenched as they are in ignorance, isolationism, hatred, and blood-letting?
“Nevertheless, our Muslim Ummah is called upon to meet today for the highest good and right in affirmation of Almighty Allah's Words enjoining us to: ‘Hold fast to Allah's rope [in unity] and not to be divided' (3:102). And that unity requires our scholars and experts of jurisprudence to unify their stand on exposing the corruption of these miscreants and the falsehood of their claims in a determined show of strength and undivided condemnation.
“While we affirm in this regard that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is a global phenomenon that is not confined to any particular religion, race, color, or country, and that can in no way be justified or rationalized, we are determined—with Almighty Allah's help and grace—to develop our national laws and legislations to criminalize every single terrorist practice and every single practice leading to the financing or instigation of terrorism. Similarly, we are also called upon to redouble and orchestrate international efforts to combat terrorism, including the establishment of an International Counter-Terrorism Center as endorsed by the Riyadh International Conference on Combating Terrorism.
“Even so, all the governments and peoples of the Ummah are unanimous in their conviction that reform and development are the priority to which all efforts should be channeled within a framework that is intimately molded in our Islamic social make-up. At the same time this framework needs to remain in harmony with the achievements of human civilization and steeped in the principles of consultation, justice, and equality in its drive to achieve good governance, widen political participation, establish the rule of law, protect human rights, apply social justice, transparency, and accountability, fight corruption, and build civil society institutions.
“Indeed, the Islamic civilization is an integral part of human civilization, based on the ideals of dialogue, moderation, justice, righteousness, and tolerance as noble human values that counteract bigotry, isolationism, tyranny, and exclusion. It is therefore of paramount importance to celebrate and consecrate these magnanimous values in our Muslim discourse inside and outside our societies.
“As we reaffirm our unwavering rejection of terrorism, and all forms of extremism and violence, we strongly voice our feelings of stigmatization and concern over the growing phenomenon of Islamophobia around the world as a form of racism and discrimination and declare our resolve to work hard to combat this phenomenon with all available means.
“Given the deep import of economic and social cooperation in strengthening solidarity among Islamic States, maximizing the advantages and averting the pitfalls of globalization, we consider the eradication of illiteracy, diseases and epidemics, and the fight to alleviate poverty in Islamic States as urgent, strategic objectives requiring us to drum up all necessary resources.
“If we are to succeed in achieving our desired objectives, then of necessity we must show commitment and credibility in our Joint Islamic Action. Therefore, proceeding from a new vision of the Muslim world that tackles head on international challenges, as well as political, economic, social, and cultural variables in a manner that safeguards the values and interests of the Ummah, we adopt and endorse the Ten-Year Programme of Action to face the challenges of the Muslim Ummah in the Twenty-first Century.
“To Almighty Allah we pray that He may guide us onto the right path, crown our endeavors with success, and bless our lives with abundant prosperity.
“Allah has promised those who believe among you and who have done good deeds that He will surely empower them in the earth just as He did with their predecessors and that He will surely establish for them (therein) their religion which He has preferred for them and that He will surely substitute for them, after their fear, security (for) they worship Me, not associating anything with Me. But whoever disbelieves after that-then those indeed are the evil doers.” (Surah Al-Noor, 55)
“Verily, Allah's Words are true.”
For two days there was much talk, mainly meant for television cameras and audiences back home. Although they were meeting in Makkah, near the Ka’aba, the House of Allah, the assembled heads evidently saw no contradiction in boasting of their status as “Kings, Emirs” and so on. There is no concept of kingship in Islam; only Allah is the King; human beings are His slaves and servants (‘ibaad). Yet such blatant disregard for Allah’s commands and usurping His authority went unnoticed, as did the fact that the vast majority of assembled heads have no right or authority to rule over their people. They were not elected and their people have never given their consent—a fundamental requirement in Islam—to ruler over them. A number of generals and other dictators were also present, claiming to speak on behalf of their people.
In all the hot air, there were a few significant contributions, particularly from by Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Iran’s young and dynamic President, who declared from the platform that the Islamic Republic of Iran would waive visa requirements for Muslims who wish to visit his country. The visa will be valid for two weeks and can be extended for another month. He also declared that the Islamic Republic of Iran belongs to all Muslims. The host, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, declined to respond in a similar fashion, even though the conference was convened to foster unity among Muslims. Although he proclaimed Makkah as the birthplace of Islam, the Qibla of the Muslims and the place where Muslims come to perform their Hajj (pilgrimage), the Saudi king was silent about waiving visa requirements for Muslims who wish to perform their Islamic obligations. Allah in His noble Book has given an open invitation to all those who have the means to perform the Hajj to do so (3:97; 22:27), yet the ruling family in the Arabian peninsula insists that Muslims must acquire a visa before performing Hajj. They have usurped the homeland of Islam by turning it into a family real-estate business and naming it “Saudi” Arabia—a bid’ah if ever there was one.
The declaration rejected extremism and urged member states to fight terrorism in “every possible manner”. There was also talk of developing a proper educational curriculum to promote tolerance, understanding, dialogue and diversity. Even a cursory glance at the text suggests that it was dictated by Washington, or at least designed to appease the rulers there. Nobody has ever produced a value-free definition of the much used and abused term “terrorism”, yet every person from every podium stands up to denounce it. For the West, terrorism means any action taken to oppose Western hegemony and oppression; for the rest of the world, the West’s policies of military aggression, rapacious greed and exploitation constitute terrorism. Thus, from the West’s point of view, Palestinian resistance to zionist occupation is terrorism, just as the Iraqi resistance to US occupation and brutality is terrorism. The West does not even follow its own definitions of what constitutes acceptable behaviour. If international law were applied uniformly and equitably, US president George W. Bush and most of his cabinet members and advisors would be charged as war criminals, as would Tony Blair of Britain and general Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, among many others of the US’s overseas allies.
In his address, President Ahmedinejad pointed out the gross injustices inflicted on the Palestinian people and the daily humiliations to which they are subjected by the occupiers of Palestine. He minced no words in stating that the zionist entity was backed and financed by the US. He said: “The honour of our Ummah has been blemished because of the existence of these occupiers. Hardly a day passes without a young Palestinian falling in his blood, a house demolished over the head of the owner, the harvest of a farmer set ablaze and olive trees cut to the ground. The existence of such a vicious and destructive force is one of the pains of the Islamic world for which we must find a solution.” His message could not have been clearer: the cancer of zionism, an ideology recognised by the overwhelming majority of people in the world as racist, must be removed. Yet the declaration merely referred to the Palestinian issue being a “central concern of the Ummah” and called upon Israel to “withdraw from Palestinian lands occupied since 1967 in addition to the Syrian Golan Heights and Lebanese lands.” Only the lands occupied since 1967 and not the lands occupied in 1956 and 1948? And why should Israel pay any attention to such appeals? The only time Israel has vacated any occupied lands is when the Hizbullah inflicted a crushing defeat upon it in Lebanon.
As if to underscore how far removed from reality most of these rulers are, they expressed the belief that “the Israeli withdrawal would help move towards a comprehensive solution of the Palestinian issue in accordance with the United Nations resolution, the Arab peace initiative and the roadmap.” Even the Palestinian Authority has acquiesced in this grand larceny and the usurpation of Palestinian rights. Only the Islamic strugglers in Palestine have refused to give up hope of recovering their rights and restoring Palestine to its rightful inhabitants. Arabism and zionism are two sides of the same coin; without Arab nationalism, which is meant to keep the Muslims divided, zionism could not have survived.
The extraordinary summit urged the member-states to cooperate with the “international community” to dismantle Jewish settlements and to cease the construction of the Israeli separation wall. What makes them think that the so-called international community is interested in dismantling Jewish settlements or stopping the construction of the apartheid wall that zionist Israel is erecting? Who do they mean by the”international community”? The political elites of the US and the West, or the ordinary people of the whole world? And who stands up for truth and justice and in defence of the weak? The world is not governed by the rule of law or on the basis of fairness and justice; otherwise the zionist monstrosity would not have been imposed on the Palestinian people. To be weak has become a crime today; only those who are willing and able to stand up and struggle for their rights have any chance of securing them.
There were also the usual ritual calls on the Turkish Cypriots to achieve their rights through the UN, and the Kashmiris, calling on all “parties” to respect their human rights. No parties were named; why was India not branded a violator of the human rights of Muslims and a usurper of the land of the Kashmiri people? Even Pakistan, under Musharraf, has surrendered to India, so it is hardly surprising that other Muslim countries should ignore the rights of the Kashmiris too.
Equally glaring was the summit’s failure on Iraq. While lauding the Iraqi national reconciliation conference, the summit denounced terrorist attacks against people. It affirmed support for the political process and reconstruction efforts in that country. There was no mention of the illegal Anglo-American occupation of Iraq, the brutality to which the Iraqi people are being subjected, or any mention of the torture chambers in US-run Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Baghram Airbase or the scores of secret prisons run by the CIA all over the world, where “ghost” prisoners are held without any rights or protection, in total defiance of any rule or law in the world. Thousands of Muslims—at least 26,000 in Iraq alone—are incarcerated in appalling conditions, tortured and humiliated without any recourse to any courts to secure their release. The summit failed to demand an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of US forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. Similarly, it failed to denounce US threats against Syria, a member of the OIC.
Perhaps the only glimmers of hope were in the proposal to establish an independent “Islamic human rights institution” to monitor the human rights situation in OIC member-states, and bring an end to sectarianism in the Ummah. Although one should not repose much hope in an institution established by regimes that themselves indulge in the torture of detainees, one should perhaps withold dismissal until it is clear who will administer such a body. If it is dominated by representatives of the members of the OIC, it is bound to be an exercise in futility. There can only be trust in its workings if it is genuinely independent, but this is highly unlikely, considering that it is to be established, if the proposal comes to anything, by regimes who would not want their own behaviour brought into the open.
In an attempt to address sectarian divisions, an article that bans accusations of apostasy at certain groups was included in the 10-year plan. The article, aimed at reducing tension between Sunnis and Shi’is, stressed “the correct belief of Muslim groups... as long as they believe in God... and all [the] principles of Islam.” The summit urged that the Saudi-based Islamic Fiqh Academy be reformed in order to make it the main reference for all sects. It underlined the need for collective endeavour to reflect the noble Islamic values and counter Islamophobia, defamation of Islam and desecration of holy sites. The Islamic Fiqh Academy has been the source of much sectarian outpourings in the past, hurling allegations of apostasy against those it disagrees with. The Ummah has suffered grievously as a consequence.
Although the change in emphasis should be welcomed, however belated, it would be unrealistic to expect that just because the summit has issued a declaration, those who run the academy will automatically adhere to its demands. Besides, there are now major disagreements between the ruling family and the Wahhabi doctrinaires in the Arabian peninsula. As long as the ruling family needed their support, this marriage of convenience lasted. Now, the Wahhabi doctrine is viewed as a challenge to US hegemony, and the Saudis are moving towards an assertion that Wahhabis advocate “extremism”. This has long been recognised by most in the Ummah, but what the Americans are objecting to that this particular brand of extremism is directed against them; when the same Wahhabi venom was directed against other Muslims, the US actively encouraged it. Throughout the eighties, after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Saudi-financed anti-Shi’i literature flooded the world. Saudi-paid preachers also travelled all over the world spewing their sectarian poison to undermine the influence of the Islamic Revolution, and Sunni organizations willing to join in this fitna were provided with ample patronage. Some of them are still at it, although they have a lower profile as it has become politically unacceptable in the Ummah for Islamic groups to be seen as pro-Saudi or soft on US imperialism.
Whether the poison of sectarianism will actually be reduced as a result of this summit and its aftermath, only time will tell.