By Khaled Almaeena
Saudi Arabiaâ€™s King Abdullah arrives at the the opening ceremony of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit in Mecca August 14, 2012.
The two-day extraordinary Islamic summit concluded early Thursday morning with a call for more unity among Muslim countries and the need to fight divisive tendencies.
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), urged all member states to avoid using sectarianism for political upmanship.
During the opening session, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, the architect of this meeting, asked leaders to shoulder responsibilities and to work for the betterment of the Ummah. He also announced the setting up of a dialogue center aimed at promoting understanding and harmony among different Muslim sects. The center will be based in Riyadh. The Muslim world, said the king, was going through a period of â€œseditions and divisions.â€
King Abdullah stressed that unity, tolerance, solidarity and moderation were the need of the hour.
The Makkah summit assumes added importance in the light of the grim situation prevailing in some parts of the Muslim world. Bloodshed in Syria, violence in Afghanistan, genocide of Muslim in Myanmar and killings elsewhere. There is saber rattling in the Gulf as media reports flood space with an impending attack on Iran by Israel.
And there is extremism in some Muslim countries and a rejection of true Islamic values of tolerance and acceptance.
To this should be added sectarianism among Muslims, mainly caused by self-appointed â€œreligious leaders or ulemaâ€ playing to the gallery. And the list goes on and on.
These issues cannot be solved by one summit in Makkah. And King Abdullah knows that. That is why he planted the seeds of a unified vision with his proposal to set up a Dialogue Center among Muslims. How can Muslims engage in dialogue with others when they are fragmented from within?
Muslim leaders, now that they are back home, should take an inward look and review what is happening in their own countries.
To start with, many Muslim countries suffer from lack of proper governance, transparency, economic mismanagement, etc. They have to remedy this. Over the past few years, the OIC, under the untiring Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, has done wonders to create an atmosphere of hope among member states.
The Secretary- General has crisscrossed the Muslim world trying to identify problems and initiating solutions.
However, all these problems cannot be resolved without a major and crucial element in the national development â€“ education.
The Muslim world needs to have quality education if it is to be in the forefront of research and development and come up with solutions to tackle problems of poverty, environment, food deficiency and water shortage.
Economic viability is a must for a peaceful political process.
And then, of course, there is good governance. Whatever system they choose, OIC member countries should ensure dignity, justice, freedom and participation for the people.
Without this there will be turmoil, upheavals and total chaos.
Education too should be taken very seriously. It should not be left in the hands of obscurantists and purveyors of hate. True Islamic ideals should be a part of the system.
The challenges facing the Ummah from within are mind-boggling.
However, in certain areas peace is needed for progress to prevail.
In the Middle East, lack of a clear policy by the Arab League, coupled with total rejection of peace overtures by an Israeli government thriving on saber rattling, jingoism, oppression, theft and occupation makes the cauldron burn more.
A rebuff of Arab Peace Plan 2002 proposed by the then Crown Prince Abdullah and continuation of oppressive policies puts the â€œpeace initiativeâ€ on hold. It was re-endorsed again at the Riyadh Summit in 2007. But the Israelis and their American supporters did not respond.
Added to this is the blind support to Israel by US administrations, Republican or Democrat. Everybody is afraid of criticizing the Netanyahu government. This does not augur well for any early settlement of the problem.
More cohesion is needed to present the case to the world.
Might is right, as they say, and if we are perceived as weak, fragmented, a society of consumers, drifting aimlessly with no real goal, then we will be at the receiving end.
King Abdullah knows this. He realizes that time is of the essence and that action and not mere words are the need of the hour.
It is said that great leaders emerge from great challenges. A great leader can reduce even a great challenge to manageable proportions. This is what King Abdullah has been trying to do. He left no one in doubt that he shares the agony of Muslims everywhere. At the same time he has offered us a vision and hope. The King said what he had to say. The Muslim world would do well to heed those words.