(MENAFN - Arab News) Leaders gathering in Cairo for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit should commit themselves to the economic, political and social development of the 1.5 billion Muslims living across the globe.
This call was made yesterday by a number of local leaders, academics and civil society members. They said Muslims have high hopes that the 56-member OIC will take effective and lasting decisions.
"We expect more cooperation among the OIC countries to confront the challenges facing the Muslim world," Dr. Abdulelah Saaty, dean of the College of Business in Rabigh, told Arab News. "The OIC must take the initiative to resolve disputes between its member countries," he said. "We should put our hearts together to improve the Ummah."
Asked why Muslim countries and people are divided despite Islamic injunctions to stand united, Saaty said: "The answer is very simple. They are divided because they don't follow Islam's instructions. We have to stand together in the face of challenges and to boost the progress and prosperity of our countries." The Saudi academic urged OIC countries to do their part to make it an effective and powerful group by implementing its resolutions.
Dr. Muhammad Badahdah, assistant secretary-general of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, was optimistic that the summit would help strengthen the Ummah and remove obstacles to progress. He also urged summit leaders to support Arab Spring countries politically and economically to ensure their stability and growth.
"We should respect people and protect their rights," Badahdah said. "People are the actual force behind the development of our countries and leaders should listen to their problems and try to solve them." He urged the OIC to adopt effective steps for the economic and cultural integration of Muslim countries. "We should make use of our economic, scientific and technological capabilities, instead of depending on other countries. OIC states must exchange their expertise and know-how for the benefit of the entire Ummah."
Muhammad Robert Heft, a Canadian and president of P4E Paradise Forever support group, urged OIC leaders to implement its resolutions to make it a credible organization. "One of the biggest problems of these summits is a lack of follow up. They talk big things, come up with good ideas, go back to their countries and forget everything, making these conferences a meaningless exercise. This is the case with all summits, not only of the OIC," Heft said.
He said many people do not believe in the OIC because they don't see its impact on the ground. "Some of our leaders use these conferences for publicity and for television appearances to look good before others. They are not bothered about whether resolutions are implemented or not." Heft called on OIC leaders to adopt a step-by-step action plan instead of committing to many things, which will be difficult for them to implement. "The OIC should conduct a feasibility study of major projects before announcing them. The summit should focus on one or two issues and take practical steps to implement them. We should have a solid plan for progress and we should not remain reactionaries. Our leaders should keep their word to win people's trust."
Syed Masood Ahmed, principal of the International Indian School in Jeddah, said the whole Muslim world has high expectations of the summit. "They are looking at the OIC, not any other organization, to solve their problems. We hope the summit will take practical steps to deal with some of the major crises in the Islamic world," he added. "OIC leaders should reach consensus on various issues and should have a roadmap to strengthen the organization. The OIC should have greater power to implement its resolutions," Ahmed said. Ali Abdul Rauf Salahuddin, an Egyptian journalist based in Jeddah, believes the Cairo summit will be better than previous ones. "The summit is important as it comes after the Arab Spring revolutions," he said. He urged summit leaders to work for the unity and economic integration of the Ummah.
"People all over the Muslim world are seeking unity and solidarity and it is the duty of leaders to realize their aspirations. The OIC should set up a system to settle the conflicts between member countries amicably," Salahuddin said. Leaders should realize the hopes and aspirations of people, if not people will change them, he warned. Jamal Muhiyuddin, an IT engineer with the General Authority for Civil Aviation, called on the summit to take steps to protect Muslim minorities in different parts of the world and stop Islamophobia. "The OIC should also take practical measures to eradicate poverty and promote education in the Muslim world," Muhiyuddin said, calling for action to protect Rohingya Muslims facing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.
Dr. Ismail Maritheri of King Abdulaziz University backed the call of OIC Secretary-General Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu for the OIC to have a seat on the UN Security Council. "The resolutions taken by the summit will have a positive impact on Muslim societies all over the world," said Maritheri. He called on OIC leaders to focus on youth and women empowerment to accelerate growth in their countries. "Affluent member countries should work to uplift the downtrodden across the world, inspired by Islamic teachings," he added.
"There should be regular stock-taking of the situation in member countries," Maritheri said, when asked what must be done to make the OIC an effective organization. "It should also have a think tank to find solutions for recurring problems. Education is the right weapon to fight poverty. Human resource development should be given top priority," he said.