The union of Muslim countries into a single entity has been a dream that Muslims in the east and the west have had for around 100 years, ever since the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate after World War One and the distribution of its territories amongst the victorious colonial countries. The 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement divided the Muslim lands into states, mini-states and emirates, as the colonialists picked on the bones of the Ottomans like hyenas, looting their wealth in the process.
Today, nobody can defend or even speak in the Caliphate's name, as everyone is associated with these colonial countries, which made sure to appoint their agents before they left to manage the country on their behalf rather than engage in a direct confrontation with the people. This allowed the colonialists to keep the decision-making in their own hands, with the new rulers little more than puppets.
So-called "independence" was the biggest lie in history, because the colonial powers did not leave. This attractive term was used to delude the generations of the 1950s and 1960s, when with this supposed independence, crises escalated and the new states did not enjoy their wealth. The colonisers, meanwhile, continued to loot local resources as they had done before "independence".
With frequent massacres, wars and military offensives, the people in the region have been kept down, with little or no civil rights; oppression is rife, as each puppet vies to prove their loyalty to their colonial masters. Drowning in a swamp of betrayal, the people are lost, and losing out on civilised values. Where once they had dominated the worlds of science and discovery while the West was in ignorance and the "Dark Ages", today the roles are reversed.
The Organisation of the Islamic Conference was established in 1969 after an Australian, Denis Michael Rohan, set fire to Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem and angry protests took place in all Muslim countries demanding vengeance and the liberation of the city. The OIC believed that it could calm the Muslims as the collective voice of the Islamic world. Its stated aim was to protect the vital interests of Muslims. Its constitution spoke of strengthening solidarity and cooperation between the Muslim countries in the social, scientific, cultural, economic and political fields. Now called the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, it is a permanent member of the UN, representing 57 countries in the Arab world, Africa, Asia, the Indian subcontinent and the Balkans.
Fifty years after its founding, it is reasonable to ask what it has done about the issues on the ground. What has the OIC done about Muslim governments persecuting their own Muslim citizens? What has it done to help the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, the Uyghur Muslims in China, the Muslims of Kashmir, and now the Muslims in India, let alone the Palestinians?
What has the OIC done about occupied Jerusalem? It is painfully ironic that the founders decided on Jeddah as a temporary headquarters for the organisation, pending the liberation of Jerusalem, where its permanent HQ will be. The arrogant Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad Bin Salman, has worked with the Zionists in Israel and the US to strip Palestine of Jerusalem, telling Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to forget Jerusalem completely and accept Abu Dis as the capital of a future Palestinian state. White House advisors affirmed that Trump deliberated with Arab leaders, including the Saudi Crown Prince, before recognising all of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, to which they all, apparently, agreed. Hence, there were no official Arab objections when Trump announced his decision and moved the US Embassy to the Holy City.
This failed organisation, run by Saudi Arabia and its Zionist whims, is now condemning a sincere and genuine gathering of Muslims loyal to the Ummah, attended by leaders who are determined and strong-willed, and want to resolve their crises and problems to free the Muslim world from repression and restore its honourable civilisation.
The Kuala Lumpur Summit held last week was the nucleus of that Muslim dream. The Arab and Muslim worlds are in dire need of new leadership to take them forward as a major bloc of nations. The initiative by Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to hold an Islamic summit is an important step towards achieving Muslim aspirations.
The idea for the summit came on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September, the Malaysian leader met with Erdoğan and Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan. Malaysia also hosted a meeting of intellectuals and activists in 2014 who proposed practical ideas and solutions to the problems of Muslims around the world. In yet another irony, Khan was not at the Summit after pressure from Bin Salman in Riyadh, who apparently threatened to deport four million Pakistani workers from Saudi Arabia and replace them with Bangladeshis, as well as withdraw Saudi deposits from the State Bank of Pakistan. That is what Erdoğan revealed. He also told a press conference that such positions adopted by Saudi Arabia and the UAE are not the first of their kind. Nor, I believe, will they be the last.
The Indonesian Prime Minister was also absent from the Summit, sending his Foreign Minister instead, after similar pressure from Saudi Arabia and the UAE and their Zionist regimes that do not wish the Ummah well and even conspire against it.
Saudi Arabia wants to lead the Muslim world by dint of its "custodianship" of the Two Holy Mosques of Makkah and Madinah. It will not allow any other country to take this position from them; the regime would, I believe, rather destroy these places of worship than let anyone take this "leadership" away. The Saudis view Turkey as a strong competitor in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and so is hostile to Turkey and plots against Erdoğan, as does its partner, the UAE. Both are believed to have been involved in the 2016 failed coup in Turkey.
The Saudis sent their Foreign Minister to Cyprus before the Summit and announced its financial and political support for the country. Furthermore, the UAE Crown Prince also announced his country's support for Cyprus. They believe, rather foolishly, that such immature actions will pose a threat to Turkey's national security, and that their support for the Kurds in northern Syria will do the same.
However, summits which are intended to actually do more than talking do not require the attendance of presidents and prime ministers in person. We have had enough of leaders taking advantage of photo-opportunities while they plot against each other, make fiery or sweet statements and then leave before the conference ends. Having leaders present at summits is simply a matter of protocol; agreements tend to be made between ministers. The Malaysian Minister of the Economy pointed out that Pakistan and Indonesia were absent from Kuala Lumpur, but the cooperation, agreements and relations between them and those who did attend are present every day and will not be broken.
There is no doubt that the presence of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was priceless, though, as it gave the summit more weight and depth, and made it non-sectarian. The Muslim countries, both Sunni and Shia, are working together to form the foundation for a strong Muslim entity that will become an effective force in the world, which is being restructured and re-mapped.
Altogether, the countries which attended the Summit represent a combined population of over 600 million people covering an area between Europe and Asia of more than 6 million square kilometres. These countries are also ranked within the top 50 countries in terms of GDP. The common denominator between them all is that their economies do not rely on their natural resources (most of them do not have oil), but rather on production and human resources. Perhaps this is why the Kuala Lumpur Summit was themed "The Role of Development in Achieving National Sovereignty".
Participants discussed the best and most effective — and implementable — solutions for the problems faced by the Muslim Ummah in the context of modern and comprehensive understanding to achieve the highest values of Islam and national sovereignty. They seek to achieve many goals, the most prominent of which is restoring the glory of Islamic civilisation.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad summed this up in his speech by saying that the Muslims need to seek solutions to stop the wars, expulsions, killing and tyranny in the world. There also needs to be cooperation between Muslim countries in the fields of technology, military industry and inter-trade, as Malaysia, Turkey and Pakistan are advanced in these fields. Importantly, said the veteran Malaysian leader, mechanisms must be formulated for challenging Israel over its crimes against the Palestinian people.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan added the eradication of poverty in the Muslim world by collecting Zakat and distributing it fairly amongst the poor. A new world order, he said, is also necessary so that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council do not have the right to control the 1.7 billion Muslims who make up a quarter of the world's population. Finally, said Erdoğan, the Muslims need to search for a foothold on the world map in light of the global changes taking place in international alliances.
Two more goals were added by the Emir of Qatar, Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani. Development, he stressed, is a basic pillar of independence and national sovereignty. This means the development of the people first in order for them to build their homeland, and national sovereignty means independence in decision-making. A solution must be found, added the Emir, to the ideological war against Muslims in the West so that the true image of Islam is presented. Incitement against Islam and Muslims has become a tool for Western politicians to attract votes.
These are great goals that I hope are translated into practice on the ground; that is the biggest challenge facing the Kuala Lumpur Summit. I was comforted by the words of Dr Mahathir Mohamad when he revealed that Malaysia, Iran and Turkey are discussing how to conduct financial transactions between themselves with gold and the barter system as a form of protection against any future sanctions imposed on them.
The Kuala Lumpur Summit was undoubtedly simply the first step on a long, arduous and thorny path to reunite the Ummah, unify its positions, preserve the blood of Muslims and work for their revival, pride, and independence. Everyone who loves the Ummah should support it.
The EU is an example for us, as it began with just three countries but its leaders possessed the desire, will and determination to achieve their dream. They managed, through trade, to attract other countries until, 50 years later, it became the major entity we know today, which is united in position and currency, despite all of the differences between its member states. Thanks to wise leadership, differences have generally been overcome. If we have wise leadership of the kind demonstrated by Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then we will be able to achieve our dreams.
Will the West allow the Muslim countries to form an international Muslim alliance to confront the superpowers and advance the Muslim world? This is arguably the greatest challenge that the participants at the Kuala Lumpur Summit will face. It is something that I hope to discuss in my next article.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.