OIC to discuss extremism, wars affecting Muslims
Foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states will gather in Jeddah on June 18-19 to discuss a wide range of issues affecting Muslims around the world, including extremism and various conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia is hosting the 41st session of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM). The Kingdom hosted this gathering in 1989 in Riyadh.
The meeting comes at a critical juncture in the Muslim world. There is a rising tide of extremism and volatility in Muslim nations and much of these issues will be reflected in the two-day deliberations.
Briefing a select group of journalists at the OIC headquarters in Jeddah on Tuesday, Maha Akeel, the organization’s director of information, said that 25 foreign ministers and four deputy foreign ministers have so far confirmed they would attend.
The 57-member body has been reduced to 56 states because of Syria’s suspension. This is the first time that such a gathering is being held under the auspices of the new Secretary-General Iyad Madani.
The last CFM was held in Conakry, Guinea, which saw Madani assume his current position. The next CFM will be held in Kuwait.
There is no set procedure on where the CFM is held. Generally a member state proposes that it wants to hold the meeting and it is put to the vote and approved. This time Saudi Arabia wanted to host it.
The current developments in Palestine will again feature prominently on the agenda. The OIC was formed in 1969 to protect the interests of the Palestinian people.
The unchecked building of illegal settlements on Arab land will be discussed. Concrete measures will be suggested on how to stop the Judaization of Jerusalem. Israel has been engaged in erasing the Muslim and Arab character of the holy city, which contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. Muslims refer to the mosque as Qibla Al-Ula — the first direction in which they prayed in the past.
The ministers are also expected to have discussions on the new unity government formed between Fatah of President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas of Khaled Mishaal.
Other issues on the agenda are likely to include developments in Syria, Libya and Iraq. In addition, there will be meetings on the sidelines of four contact groups on Kashmir, Somalia, Mali and the Rohingyas.
There will also be discussions on the rise of extremism in the Muslim world. The focus will be on how to tackle the criminal activities of Boko Haram in Nigeria. The OIC chief visited Nigeria recently to take stock of the situation, and has publicly condemned the group’s activities.
The precarious situation of Muslims in the Central African Republic will also be discussed.
The highlight of the conference will be a press conference on the final day to be addressed by Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and Madani. The conference will reveal the priorities of the OIC under its new leadership.
The OIC has been criticized in the past for issuing statements on critical issues but failing to take action on the ground. It has defended itself by arguing that it is only a diplomatic body and often has to accommodate the conflicting interests of member states.