If the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit (held in Tehran from December 9 to 11) had only brought together heads of State and senior representatives from 55 Muslim countries, and achieved nothing else, it would be considered a major success. As it turned out, the OIC summit was a grand event. Its significance was enhance by the opening address of the Rahbar (Leader of the Islamic Revolution), Ayatullah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.
The Rahbar made a forceful call for Muslim unity and denounced the evil plots of the great arrogance (the US). ‘The seduction, lies and mischievous propaganda by the great arrogance has done something to us and made us wrongly afraid of each other,’ he told the assembled heads. Ayatullah Khamenei went on to reassure the leaders of Muslim countries: ‘I declare that no threat will ever come from Islamic Iran to any Muslim country.’ He reaffirmed that ‘Islamic Iran is today more than ever anxious for Muslim unity.’
This was historic. For the first time since its creation in 1969, the OIC summit was addressed by the Leader of the only Islamic State which is truly independent of all external influences. And that so many heads of State, especially from the Arab world, flocked to Tehran reflects the new reality in the region.
The Tehran summit was significant for another reason. Only three weeks earlier, a US-sponsored Middle East and North Africa conference in Doha, Qatar, was shunned by many of those who attended the OIC summit in Tehran (see report in Archives - World: "After Doha, guarded optimism..."). This was a slap in the face of the US which watched impotently from the outside making a pathetic plea for dialogue with Tehran as the summit opened.
Since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the west in general and the US in particular has led a shrill campaign against the Islamic Republic. Over the last three years, the US also tried to isolate Iran under what it called a policy of ‘dual containment.’ Far from succeeding, it has left the US isolated even from its closest allies. The Europeans have pointedly refused to follow the US lead.
Even America’s Arab client regimes, notably in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, attended the Tehran summit. Saudi Arabia was represented by crown prince Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz. With king Fahd seriously ill, Saudi Arabia was representated at the next highest level. In a sign of changing times, the Saudi government had sent a part of the mahmal that covered the door of the Ka’aba for the past six months, to adorn the conference centre. The richly-embroidered black silk cloth in gold with verses from the noble Qur’an formed a backdrop to the platform.
Egypt, which does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, was represented by its foreign minister Amr Mousa. The amir of Kuwait Shaikh Jaber al-Sabah was also there as were Turkish president Suleiman Demirel, Syrian president Hafez al-Asad, Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Jordanian crown prince Hasan and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. UN secretary general Kofi Annan, Arab League secretary general Esmet Meguid and Iraqi vice president Taha Yasin Ramadan were also there.
The Arab rulers were able to see for themselves not only the good nature of the Iranians but also a country which has stood firm despite US embargoes. The lessons could not have been lost on the visitors. Reliance on Allah, not the US, is the secret to success.
Presided over by president Mohammad Khatami, the eighth OIC summit had a heavy agenda. Promotion of relations between Muslim countries and working out a strategy to meet the challenges facing the Ummah (Muslim community) were high on the conference list.
At press time, the summit was still in progress but Iranian foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi said that the summit will take up a heavy agenda including the issues of Palestine, Al Quds, Bosnia, Kashmir and Afghanistan. A total of 142 resolutions were approved for discussion.
Other issues included the rights of women and children, the creation of a Muslim common market with a population of 1,200 million, and confronting zionist aggression in Palestine and the Middle East. Even the issue of terrorism, which is so much talked about in the west and blamed on Muslim activists, was on the agenda. This indicated the confidence of Muslims to tackle touchy issues head-on.
Pre-conference discussion indicated that both Pakistan and Iran had agreed to support the call for the establishment of a broad-based government in Afghanistan. They also agreed to provide financial help to the Afghan people to overcome their problems. Similarly, Kashmir was a major topic on the agenda although the All Parties Hurriyet Conference leaders were prevented by India from leaving to attend the summit.
The Kashmir issue irked Delhi where a foreign ministry spokesman on December 8 took umbrage at the OIC summit discussing the matter. That India should have the gall to thumb its nose at 55 Muslim countries indicates not only its arrogance but the failure of Muslim governments to take their responsibilities seriously. If only the Arab regimes were to cut off trade links with India, the arrogant Hindus could be brought to their knees and forced to deal with the people of Kashmir in a more equitable manner.
In any case, the OIC needs to do a lot more than what it has done so far. The Tehran summit is clearly a move in the right direction. This momentum needs to be built on if progress is to be achieved.
One must however, bear in mind, that the existence of the OIC flies in the face of the unity of the Ummah. It is an admission of the divisions in the Ummah. While this is a bitter fact, Muslims must begin to plan to get out of this predicament.
Muslimedia: December 16-31, 1997