Organization of the Islamic Conference Is Established Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

With fifty-seven member states, the Organization of the Islamic Conference is the largest intergovernmental organization other than the United Nations. It was founded to protect Muslim holy places in Jerusalem and to support the Palestinians in their struggle to regain their national rights. It later added to these goals the advancement of the religious, cultural, social, scientific, economic, educational, and political interests of Muslims everywhere.

Summary of Event

The incident that triggered the founding of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) was the arson attack on August 21, 1969, on Al-Aqsa Mosque Al-Aqsa Mosque[Al Aqsa Mosque] in occupied Jerusalem. The third holiest shrine of Islam and its first qilba (a shrine that marks the direction in which Muslims turn while praying)—known also as the Farthest Mosque—Al-Aqsa was built starting in the early eighth century by Caliph al-Walīd, whose father, ՙAbd al-Malik, built the famous Dome of the Rock. The location of the mosque is important to Jews as well as Muslims, because of the belief that Solomon’s Temple, destroyed by the Babylonians, stood on the same site. Despite a lack of evidence that the Israeli government was involved in the arson attack on Al-Aqsa, the fact that the temple complex was captured by the Israelis in the 1967 Six-Day (Arab-Israeli) War Six-Day War (1967)[Six Day War] made the attack suspicious and unsettling to Muslims. Organization of the Islamic Conference Islam [kw]Organization of the Islamic Conference Is Established (Sept. 25, 1969) [kw]Islamic Conference Is Established, Organization of the (Sept. 25, 1969) Organization of the Islamic Conference Islam [g]Middle East;Sept. 25, 1969: Organization of the Islamic Conference Is Established[10450] [g]Africa;Sept. 25, 1969: Organization of the Islamic Conference Is Established[10450] [g]Morocco;Sept. 25, 1969: Organization of the Islamic Conference Is Established[10450] [g]Palestine;Sept. 25, 1969: Organization of the Islamic Conference Is Established[10450] [c]Organizations and institutions;Sept. 25, 1969: Organization of the Islamic Conference Is Established[10450] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Sept. 25, 1969: Organization of the Islamic Conference Is Established[10450] [c]Government and politics;Sept. 25, 1969: Organization of the Islamic Conference Is Established[10450] [c]Human rights;Sept. 25, 1969: Organization of the Islamic Conference Is Established[10450]

The initial goal of the OIC was to organize the Muslim countries in order to take effective measures to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other holy sites, with the ultimate goal of liberating Jerusalem itself from Israeli occupation. Fighting Zionism Zionism (the movement to establish and maintain a Jewish national homeland in Palestine) thus became a major goal of the OIC.

Representatives from twenty-five Muslim nations gathered in Rabat, Morocco, on September 25, 1969, to found the OIC; they included Afghanistan, Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Guinea, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan, Palestine, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan, Somalia, Tunisia, and Turkey. The OIC met again in February, 1972, and adopted a charter to articulate the organization’s chief aims: to strengthen solidarity and cooperation among member states; to safeguard holy places as well as to support the Palestinians in their struggle for liberation from occupation; and to eliminate discrimination and colonialism. The OIC charter binds members to commit to the principles of equality among the OIC’s member states, to respect the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of each country, to settle disputes through peaceful means, and to refrain from the use of force against one another. The OIC was thus a historic attempt to unify, under the notion of Islamic umma (community), a large number of disparate countries of varying levels of economic and social development, scattered in Asia and Africa, to fight a common enemy and to advance the common cause of protecting and defending Islamic interests worldwide.

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Membership in the OIC is voluntary and open to every Islamic country, subject to approval by a two-thirds majority of the member states. Membership grew in the 1970’s, the 1980’s, and, with the fragmentation of the former Soviet Union, the 1990’s, when the newly created Muslim countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia—such as Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—also became members.

In addition to its regular members, the OIC includes among its affiliates nations that have been granted observer status—Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Central African Republic, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Thailand, and the Russian Federation—on the grounds that these nations contain significant percentages of Muslim populations. For political reasons, however, not every country with a significant Muslim population has been granted observer status. For example, India, which contains the second largest Muslim population in the world—more Muslims live in India than in Pakistan—has not been successful in receiving the observer status, because of objections raised by Pakistan based on the two nations’ unresolved dispute over Kashmir.

Certain nongovernmental organizations and institutions also participate in the OIC gatherings as observers. These include the Moro National Liberation Front, the Parliamentary Union of the OIC member states, the Islamic Conference Youth Forum for Dialogue and Cooperation, the United Nations, the Nonaligned Movement, the League of Arab States, the African Union, and the Economic Cooperation Organization.

The OIC consists of four major components, organized in a hierarchical order: At the top of the hierarchy is the triennial summit, composed of kings and heads of state and government, which is the final decision-making body. Each summit is headed by an elected chair and holds office until the next summit meeting. The Conference of Foreign Ministers, which forms the next layer, meets annually to review the progress of the actions and decisions taken by the summit. The third layer, which is the executive body of the OIC, is the General Secretariat (based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, as of 2007); the ultimate goal is to locate this body in a liberated Jerusalem. At the bottom of the hierarchy are dozens of committees, institutions, and agencies: standing committees, subsidiary organs, specialized institutions, and affiated institutions. These bodies deal with such matters as information and cultural affairs, economic and trade cooperation, scientific and technological cooperation, and the advancement of peace.

Many of the OIC’s projects and institutions have been established to promote research, education, technology, Islamic culture, history, language, science, law, banking, trade, sports, media, and humanitarian assistance, all of which are intended to bring Muslim countries to the forefront of progress. The organization has helped build universities and cultural centers such as the Islamic University of Technology, headquartered in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and the Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture, which is located in Istanbul, Turkey.

Significance

Despite its impressive setup and manifold institutions, criticism abounds about the OIC’s inability to alter significantly the difficult political and economic conditions faced by many of the member states. Because of its failure in uniting the members for effective political action, the OIC has sometimes been dubbed a debating club. Some believe that, although every summit routinely issues lofty declarations and expresses dissatisfaction with the sociopolitical situations of member countries (especially the plight of Palestine), actual accomplishments have been few. The OIC is also hampered by an apparent lack of clear leadership and a tendency for each member to place its own national or foreign policy interests above those of the membership as a whole. The populations of the member countries often complain that the OIC has failed them. The helplessness of the OIC is especially evident in its failure to avert wars among member states, foreign invasions, and the recurrent reoccupation of Palestinian territories over the years. The lack of effective political, social, and economic reforms within member countries, coupled with the fact that nearly all members of the OIC are relatively poor nations, makes it a formidable challenge for the OIC to achieve its stated goals.

Nevertheless, the founding of the OIC created, for the first time, a forum to assemble and plan action for the common good for many disparate and unequally situated Muslim countries in Asia and Africa. In this regard alone, the founding of the OIC was a major historic event. The actions, programs, and declarations of the OIC on regional and global matters are watched carefully by nations whose interests are closely tied with the future of the members of the OIC, particularly member countries in the Middle East. The support or acquiescence of the OIC is frequently sought by the world’s powerful nations as it initiates military or diplomatic actions against a member state. Despite the many criticisms of the OIC, its programs have positively benefited member nations, communities, and individuals, and it has become a vehicle for the richer members to channel their resources to the poorer ones, promoting economic development, trade, and education. Organization of the Islamic Conference Islam

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Khan, Sa’ad S. “The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and Muslim Minorities.” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 22, no. 2 (2002): 351-367. Examines the involvement of the OIC to protect the rights of a third of the world’s Muslim population that live in non-Muslim states.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. Reasserting International Islam: A Focus on the Organization of the Islamic Conference and Other Islamic Institutions. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. In addition to a comprehensive description of the OIC, the author provides an assessment of its strengths and weaknesses.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sheikh, Naveed S. The New Politics of Islam: Pan-Islamic Foreign Policy in a World of States. New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003. Dismisses as unfounded the Western anxiety about a possible reemergence of the old Caliphate and explains the OIC as a pan-Islamic project that clearly recognizes the realities of the national imperatives of distinct states.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Yusuf, Salahudeen. “Nigeria’s Membership in the OIC: Implications of Print Media Coverage for Peace and National Unity.” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 19, no. 2 (1999): 235- 247. Using Nigeria’s case, the article notes that a nation’s decision to join the OIC can create controversy.

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