When US President Donald Trump announced his disruptive policy to shift the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the divided Muslim world awoke from its deep slumber and issued its faint disproval to the decision.
Since 1969, the so-called Muslim Ummah has failed to extend meaningful support to the hapless Palestinians in terms of acquiring their inalienable right to a sovereign state in the Middle East. Besides the protracted Palestinian issue, the divided Muslim world is also plagued by political, economic, security and religious issues.
Worryingly, the Muslims countries are at loggerheads with one another owing to geopolitical, economic and security reasons. The divergence of interests has impeded Muslim unity that is required to safeguard their diminishing global interests. This has provided an opportunity to the West to further drive a wedge among Muslims. This has been designed to sharply divide Muslims so that they do not pose a formidable threat to the political, economic and cultural dominance of the West.
A week after Trump’s announcement, Turkey immediately convened a session of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul to dispatch a befitting response to the US. The OIC declared East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, rejected the US stance as dangerous and called on the global community to follow in its footsteps.
But the Saudi decision to send a minister to attend the OIC’s special session has manifested that some Muslim countries may not be on the same page. Such conflicts of interest have been the major stumbling block for Muslim countries to resolve their deep-seated political and economic issues. As history indicates, the indecisive OIC will once again fail to translate its hollow promises about an independent Palestine into tangible measures and, thereby, let Palestinians further reel under Israel’s brutal oppression.
Muslims experienced a golden age from the eighth century to the 13th century. During the same period, Muslim rulers had not only established one of the largest empires in the world, they had also excelled in the social and natural sciences. Baghdad became the centre of learning where scholars around the world gathered to produce knowledge. However, when the Mongols invaded Baghdad in 1258, the golden age of Muslims came to an abrupt end, resulting in the supremacy of the Europeans.
Though the Ottoman Empire ruled over vast swathes of European and Middle Eastern lands, it could not sustain itself due to entrenched bad governance, internal political cleavages and the lack of naval power. Big European powers such as Britain, France, Prussia, Russia and Austria overtly helped minor Christian nations to gain independence from the tottering Ottoman Empire. After its humiliating defeat in the Crimean War (1854-56), Turkey became the sick man of Europe and was crushingly defeated in the WWI.
In the Subcontinent, a few Turkish and Afghan rulers had established their rules from the 11th century to the mid-19th century. These rulers were so immersed in enjoying a luxurious life that they disregarded quality education, effective governance and the need to establish strong land and naval power. Their intellectual backwardness, bankrupt economic position and military feebleness invited the British to dethrone the Mughals in 1857 and establish the rule of the British Crown.
Presently, the overall conditions of the Muslim world are not satisfactory. In Myanmar, the Rohingya Muslims have endured periodic crackdowns since Operation King Dragon in 1978. The ongoing fierce military crackdowns of the Myanmar Army have resulted in the death of over 1,000 Rohingya Muslims and compelled over half a million others to flee to Bangladesh. These ill-fated Rohingya have faced merciless torture. The OIC has counted on mere condemnations and failed to take any concrete measure to help the stateless Rohingya acquire their fundamental human rights.
The pathetic condition of Muslims in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) is no different from that of the Rohingya Muslims. India has colonised IOK since 1947 while ignoring the UNSC resolutions about Kashmir’s right to a plebiscite. Over 700,000 Indian forces have killed around 100,000 Kashmiris since 1989. According to some estimates, there are about 6,700 unmarked graves in IOK and about 10,000 Kashmiris have gone missing over the past 20 years. The HRW has revealed that rape is usually used in IOK to punish and humiliate communities. Instead of preventing India from committing atrocities in IOK, some Muslim countries are forging robust economic and security ties with the Modi government.
The simmering Syrian and Yemeni civil wars have made the swelling divergences between Muslim countries patently clear. Instead of finding an agreed solution to these lingering conflicts, some Arab monarchies have been heavily engrossed in sponsoring and arming rebels so as to dethrone the Iranian-backed Assad regime. Around 465,000 Syrians have been killed, over a million others have been injured and nearly 12 million have been displaced in the seven-year war.
In Yemen, some 10,000 people have been killed due to the fighting between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebels. Around 2,000 people have died owing to the rapidly spreading cholera epidemic since April this year and this waterborne disease has adversely impacted about one million people in the country. Despite knowing that Sana’a imports about 90 percent of its wheat to feed its population, Saudi Arabia has imposed an embargo on the country, closing all of Yemen’s land, sea and airports. This has, therefore, brought about serious concerns over hunger and malnutrition. Unfortunately, the OIC and the GCC have failed to bring the divided Muslim leaders together so that they could find a lasting solution to the ominous Syrian and Yemeni wars.
On the economic front, though the Muslim world constitutes 23 percent of the world’s population and 21.7 percent of the world’s land mass, its total GDP makes up only $7 trillion, which is only eight percent of the global GDP. It is worrying to note that the non-oil GDP of the Muslim world constitutes only four percent of the world’s GDP. The Muslim world neither owns any major multinational corporations nor does it spend on research and development. Even though education is the most effective weapon to transform a weak country into a potent economic and military power, most Muslim countries have disregarded this sector.
The ideological conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia has continued to create mayhem in the Middle East and South Asia. Owing to these religious differences and the imperialistic designs of the US, militant groups are involved in wreaking havoc in some Muslims countries.
Muslim leaders need to diagnose these problems and resolve them on a war footing. A reformed and empowered OIC will immensely help safeguard the collective economic and political interests of Muslims. Any delays in uniting the divided Muslim countries will further embolden the West to divide and weaken Muslims in this anarchic world.
The writer is an independent researcher.