The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC): Nature, Role, and the Issues

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In 2004, in a review essay, Lisa Anderson found that most of the authors of the books she reviewed on September I I attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., considered these attacks as some sort of assaults on Modern, Western, American, and Liberal values. (1) But most certainly those attacks were not as simple as that. Therefore, Anderson admits "in reality, the impacts of September 11 were far more complex and contested than most of them [the authors] individually would likely recognize." (2) Daniel Philpott argued that the assault on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the killing of some three thousand civilians on September 11, 2001, was motivated by a political theology that regards the Westphalian synthesis as despicably secularized. (3) This political theology, described by Philpott as "radical Islamic revivalism," began in the early twentieth century as an internal moral critique of Islamic civilization, one that regards it as having decayed to a state of barbarism. (4) This is reflective of the theory of "clash of civilizations" propounded by Samuel P. Huntington. This theory argues that the post-Cold War era would be dominated by conflicts involving civilizations rather than nation states. (5) In this literature Islamic civilization emerges as the most potent remaining threat to building a liberal international order. (6) It may still be debated whether September 11 attacks were an assault on Western values or the rejection of a secularized international system, but there is no doubt that since those tumultuous events of September 11 much have been said and made about the role of Islam and Muslims in the contemporary international system. Evans points out that it has become a common-place theme in European and North American society that Islam is dedicated to changing Western values. (7) In this regard, he notes that Islam is presented as a monolithic, proselytizing creed dedicated to undermining, overturning, and eventually replacing the values that have sustained capital growth on a global scale. (8) However, the fact remains that Muslims around the world also joined the chorus of condemnation of September 11 attack. Leading Muslim clerics in Egypt, Iran, and other parts of the Middle East publicly and in stern language denounced the September attacks, declaring them to be blatantly incompatible with Islamic religion and indeed with any conceivable standards of ethics. (9)

In spite of these denunciations, negative views of Muslims among sections of Westerners persist. In 2007, a Pew Center survey found that about 43% of Americans viewed Muslims in positive light but 30% Americans used negative words to describe their impressions of Muslims. Muslims were described as fanatic, violent and terrorists. (10) Hence the observation that not much has changed since Lapidus wrote in 1996, that to the Westerners, Islam calls to mind puritanical holy warriors, fanatics, dervishes, suicide bombers, hijackers, and human waves thrown into battle. (11) Therefore, it is not surprising that an exasperated Aslam Syed writes, "Muslim history, culture, religion, and politics are judged not through history or proper context of their Holy Book but through the dusty clouds that followed the destruction of the twin towers of the New York City and the attack on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C." (12) Two members of President George W. Bush's now infamous "Axis of Evils" were Muslim majority states--Iran and Iraq. Syria has been placed on U.S. State Department's list of states sponsoring terrorism. Libya also shared a place on that list until the Tripoli authorities gave up their nuclear weapons and technology in 2003 and handed them over to the United States. Pakistan has been described as a dishonest partner of the U.S. in the Afghanistan War. (13) Such views give rise to a general impression that the Muslim majority states are not playing a positive role in international relations. …