The Muslim World's Growing Concerns: Palestinians, Rohingya in Myanmar, Kashmiris, Syrians, Afghans...
15 May 2016
By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
During last month's two-day summit conference in Istanbul, the Organization of
Islamic Cooperation heralded their theme of ''Unity and Solidarity for Justice
and Peace''. Now as organizations go, the OIC in my opinion is nothing more
than a bloated bureaucracy with very little achievement in terms of real
progress in the Muslim world. And I say that with confidence when I see the
state of affairs of the Palestinians, the Rohingya in Myanmar, the Kashmiris
and their dream of a plebiscite, the stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh, the
Syrian refugees, and so on and on. Granted, the OIC puts out lengthy
communiques on these issues but very little else.
It was thus refreshing to hear Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in
addressing the gathering of more than 30 heads of state and key ministers from
all member states say: ''I believe the greatest challenge we need to surmount
is sectarianism. My religion is not that of Sunnis, of Shiites. My religion is
Islam.'' Urging the heads of state gathered for the summit to jointly end
sectarian divisions within the Muslim world and fight terror, Erdogan added
that ''we should be uniting. Out of the conflicts, the tyranny, only Muslims
suffer. This summit meeting could be a turning point for the whole Islamic
Erdogan also brought up the militancy of Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS)
operating in Syria and Iraq and Boko Haram extremists in Nigeria as two
''terrorist organizations that are serving the same evil purpose,'' adding
that the OIC had accepted a Turkish proposal to set up a multinational
security organization center for all Islamic states to fight militants that
would be based in Istanbul. ''We need to establish an organization to further
strengthen cooperation in the fight against terror,'' he said.
The Turkish president zeroed in on the two biggest internal threats to the
Muslim world. Granted that there has been an increasing presence of
Islamophobia that has gathered momentum in recent times, but Islamophobia is
not a Muslim invention. Sectarianism is. While terrorism has been in the
headlines, it was important to see that the issue of sectarianism was brought
up as a key agenda item and identified as a threat to the Islamic world.
There is great division in the Muslim world. While in theory Muslims should
all stand united under one doctrine of faith, this is far from being the case.
Inciting hatred and suspicion of other beliefs has increased along with
terrorism. From villages and huts in different corners of the Muslim world, a
new breed of clerics has sprung up, each promoting his own interpretation of
our religion and distorting it to suit his tribal traditions. A lot of sermons
reject anyone not conforming to such extreme views with some clerics going so
far as to brand non-conformists as heretics! While some would say that the
Sunni-Shia conflict is an age-old realism, many of us Sunnis growing up were
never aware of such a conflict within our midst and would treat Shias no
differently than ourselves. And the same applied to people who followed other
beliefs. It is only within the last two decades that the fostering of
sectarian conflicts has increased.
Today, we hear of Sunnis blowing up Shia mosques and vice versa. These people
are promoting their distorted interpretations of Islam and invoking the name
of Islam in the execution of their evil and barbaric agendas. An attack on or
destruction of symbols of one's faith, be it a mosque, a church, a synagogue
or a temple is a despicable act by those with reprehensible mindsets. Islam
was not introduced as a religion to foster inter-faith disharmony. Neither
were Muslims put on this earth to pass judgment on the beliefs of others. They
are accountable only for their own deeds.
Islam has not taught us to react violently to those of other faiths. Nor does
it condone the killing of the innocent or the destruction of property. But
evil transcends the boundaries of religions and faiths. Such actions are used
by individuals or groups on a power high to further their sinister agendas.
And these actions can come from any faith. It doesn't have to be Muslims. We
have seen and read enough of Qur'an-burning Christian pastors, of mosques,
synagogues and other places of worship being attacked and the like to
understand that there is evil all around that is not so easy to tag.
Wicked people of all faiths exist everywhere and with their deviate ideologies
pose a living threat to peace and harmony among all faiths and beliefs. They
use the blanket of religious authority together with the bullet and the bomb
to promote their heinous message. It is our duty to stop them.
— The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena