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Summit to boost Muslim morale
By Siraj Wahab
JEDDAH, Arab News — Neither Iraq nor Kashmir is on the draft agenda of the extraordinary summit of Islamic countries which begins in Makkah tomorrow.
“Yes Iraq is a pressing issue and (Iraqi President) Jalal Talabani is attending the summit, but Iraq is not part of the official agenda,” Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), told reporters and editors in Jeddah yesterday.
Responding to a question on whether there was any proposal to have an Islamic army replace US occupation forces in Iraq, Professor Ihsanoglu said the extraordinary summit has a single point agenda. “It will discuss the reformation of OIC as outlined in the report prepared by over 100 Muslim scholars and intellectuals who met in Makkah in September this year,” he said.
“Kashmir is also not on the agenda,” Professor Ihsanoglu went on to say. “These issues are discussed in regular summits. This is an extraordinary summit convened at the direction of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah in order to review the current state of the Islamic nation and to explore strategies for the Muslim world and enable it to face the challenges of the 21st century,” he explained.
“The summit will discuss ways and means for the Islamic nation to regain a sense of self-confidence and to enable it to face the dangers which threaten it. The Makkah summit will discuss a strategic 10-year plan to re-energize the Muslim world with concrete measures,” Professor Ihsanoglu said.
OIC officials later clarified that though Iraq is not on the draft agenda if the foreign ministers who are meeting today feel it necessary to include Iraq in the deliberations then they can do so. “It is up to the foreign ministers. They decide the agenda. Whatever we are talking about are only draft proposals. And as far as the draft agenda is concerned, Iraq and Kashmir are not on it,” they added.
Professor Ihsanoglu said the Muslim intellectuals and scholars, who were invited for the preparatory forum in Makkah in September, were given a free hand to discuss and suggest anything whatsoever that was contributing to the unfortunate situation in the Muslim world.
“The scholars came from all countries and included almost all sects,” Professor Ihsanoglu pointed out. “They included economists, journalists, writers, strategists and specialists,” he said.
“There was no rhetoric, no protocol. The discussions were open, frank and candid,” he added. Their suggestions and recommendations are part of the report entitled, “Islamic Ummah: New Vision, Solidarity in Action.” “It is this report,” he said, “that will be discussed at the summit.”
Professor Ihsanoglu said this was an unprecedented summit because for the first time it aims to do something concrete rather than indulging only in political rhetoric.
On the issue of terrorism, he said the OIC’s position was very clear. “We condemn terrorism in all its forms and that includes state terrorism. We condemn terrorism because it targets innocent people.”
Professor Ihsanoglu said King Abdullah would lay the foundation for the new headquarters of the OIC general secretariat in Jeddah. “It is located in a very symbolic location near Bab Makkah. We will soon invite architects from all over the world to submit designs.”
Atta Mannan, the OIC spokesperson, said one of the proposals at the summit concerned issuing a “Makkah Visa.” “It will be along the lines of the Schengen visa and the proposal was first floated by the Islamic Chamber of Commerce & Industry which is part of the OIC. “The businesspeople want this in order to promote trade between Muslim countries,” he said. (The Schengen visa refers to the 15 European Union nations which allow document-free travel across their borders).
The scholars meeting in August was closed to the media but a copy of their recommendations obtained by Arab News indicated that they had called for a massive effort to improve education and make sure that ordinary people had a voice throughout the Muslim world.
The scholars called for creating a knowledge fund to support and improve the quality of education, especially in the underdeveloped parts of the Muslim world. They also noted the importance of creating an environment in which people could hold differing opinions and the media could operate without interference.
The scholars’ meeting produced a series of recommendations touching upon the position of the Muslim Ummah in the contemporary world, Islamic solidarity and joint Islamic action, institutionalization of Islamic good governance, conflict prevention and confidence building, terrorism, dialogue and civilization, Islamophobia, political and human rights of Muslim minorities in non-OIC countries.
Of particular significance was the scholars’ pragmatic recommendation to focus only on those resolutions that could actually be implemented.
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