The OIC and Turkey

Comment

Muslim world is at a critical turning point. The problems emerging within the Muslim countries are now transnational characters and most of them have a global reach. The Muslim populations' geography is under strict scrutiny and even there are plans to transform the Muslim nations with the plans that will allegedly last more than 50 years....

Muslim world is at a critical turning point. The problems emerging within the Muslim countries are now transnational characters and most of them have a global reach. The Muslim populations' geography is under strict scrutiny and even there are plans to transform the Muslim nations with the plans that will allegedly last more than 50 years.

The (OIC) meeting of foreign ministers, in mid-June, in Istanbul had an agenda of the problems that a single international organization can dare to deal with in years. In the political arena, these problems have both internal and external sources. The general tendency is to blame outside powers and to externalize the problems. However, this behavior is a part of history and Muslim nations have not such a luxury and time to deceive themselves. It is time to look at also critically to inner self at every possible level.

The common perception of the members of OIC is that Muslim world is under hegemonic control of the big powers. The evidence for this is the occupation of Palestinian lands and invasion of Iraq . In this sense, the U.S. military unilateralism and its favoring of Israel create many difficulties for certain Muslim countries. Another important problem is the serious misperception that associates Islam with terror and presents the Muslims as the terrorists. The status of Al-Quds occupies a central position among threat perceptions.

The internal problems of the Muslim world go far beyond the external ones. The democratization problem is almost a common phenomenon. The role of religion in state system and place of religion in public sphere is still problematic. The idea of secularism is subject to many interpretations in the Muslim world and sometimes source of tension between state and society. Globalization poses many challenges and initiated an identity crisis and fostered the lack of self-confidence in Muslim world. In addition, inter-communal violence and ethnic problems run deep adding insult to injury.

It will be very optimistic to imagine that the OIC meeting could solve even some of these problems. Most of these problems are systemic and very structurally settled problems and solution requires much time and effort. The 57 Muslim countries declared in the final statement, known as Istanbul declaration, need for full sovereignty and political independence in Iraq . There is also declaration of support to the Palestinian cause. In the statement, OIC member countries also expressed their support to Northern Cyprus for breaking its international isolation. The need for reform and condemnation of global terrorism were other topics of the final statement.

What the OIC can do is to revise its role as a platform for open discussion and can add more civil societal dimension to its body. Muslim world's international organizations have an implementation problem and they are not functional even in their main area of interests. The OIC is no exception in this sense but the current chaotic situation that may symbolically represent a bottom line for the Muslim world should be the main source of motivation to transform the OIC to a dynamic and efficient body.

Turkey wants to be more active in this organization and offers a fresh source of dynamism that can serve have a more functional OIC. Turkey said NO to the U.S. before the Iraqi invasion and helped to both extend the occupation process and bring the Palestinian question to fore. Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan openly criticized the Sharon government's massacre in occupied territories and called Israel to stop state terror. In this OIC summit, Turkish foreign minister Abdullah G?l stated that Muslim countries are in desperate need for reform and argued that the Palestinian question should not be used as a pretext to delay reforms.

These policies are not due to anti-Americanism or enmity toward Israel . Erdoğan is also nor an Arab more than Arabs. Nor these developments served to worsening of Turkish-American and Turkish-Israeli relations. However, all are the result of the fact that Erdoğan is a democratically elected leader and can not turn his back to his people's demands. This is important in particular considering the Muslim nations positions against the Greater Middle East Initiative. This democratic ability gives the governments to decide whether or not the external projects are appropriate for themselves.

Considering the last decade, Turkey has become more democratic owing to its western orientation, and with its targeting of economic development and stability, Turkey made clear that it catches the spirit of time and world realities. Successful fights against the PKK and Hezbollah, democratic attitude toward the U.S. demands and its determination to solve the Cyprus problem displays that Turkey is a peace seeking state in its region. These developments also served for Turkey 's catch of the psychological mode of the Arab countries and other Muslim countries and these also lead to the mutual discovery of both sides. While keeping its Western orientation, Turkey follows a multidimensional and dynamic foreign policy lines.

Turkey 's candidate for secretary general, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, head of OIC's Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture, (IRCICA) has been chosen by majority of the OIC. Turkey 's active participation to the OIC having the secretary general position of this organization will be a positive development for the Muslim world. As Rumi said hundreds of years ago we are not at the point we stand but the point we are destined to go. In our geography, crisis also means opportunity. The OIC is a major international organization of the Muslim World with lots of responsibilities and Turkey may add positively to fulfill some of these duties with a Turkish secretary general.

 

* Assoc. Prof., Fatih University , Istanbul and Project Director, Turkish-Asian Center for Strategic Studies. He is author of Turkey and Greater Middle East (TASAM:2004) His web address: abulent@fatih.edu.tr

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