Casablanca should mark turning point
The Islamic Summit which opens today in Casablanca faces a daunting task.
All is not well. Theirs is a world where blood is being spilt over and something quickly should be done about it. As if not enough of blood is flowing another blood bath is taking place in the Chechan Republic. Russian tanks have rolled into the capital Chechnya blasting away at people. The attack on this Republic came on the orders of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, a proclaimed anti-Muslim. He has vowed to fight and wipe out any resistance and has brushed aside proposals for negotiations. The city of Grozny has become a firing range for Russian soldiers.
I don't know how much time will be devoted to Chechnya at Casablanca.
Across Europe streams of Bosnians are trekking fearing another blood bath. The Serbs have made a mockery of all Western institutions, principles and values.
I am usually not in the habit of pouring diatribe on the West nor am I a firm believer in the conspiracy theory of which many I know strictly adhere to. But it is becoming increasingly apparent that the failure of the European countries to contain Serbian thirst for blood confirms the fears that there is a deep rooted campaign to blot out any Muslim presence in Europe. The fears that such a type of country in the close to Rome and Vienna would be a hot bed for "fundamentalist" activities are unfounded.
What was more disheartening was the disagreement at Budapest last week over the war in Bosnia.
It was the most spectacular diplomatic failure at an international gathering since the end of the cold war.
While Yeltsin was blocking any resolution that criticized the Serb, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was shedding crocodile tears and making passionate cease-fire appeals without specifying that the Serbs were the aggressors.
Serbia too got off lightly. In fact the Russians wanted to give the murderous Slobodan Milosevic a pat on the back for accepting an international peace plan for Bosnia. The plan is itself a death knell for Bosnia.
The Serbs thus have a strong 'uncle' in Russia. The Bosnians have no one to turn to. Therefore it is important that some noise comes out of Casablanca that will relay a message that the Summit means business.
Across the Bosnian borders in Turkestan there is a planned attempt at wiping out the Turkestanis who are being subjected to a brutal repression. Their feeble voices are not being heard because many Muslim countries and leaders want to hear their own voice.
In Burma too the Bohubgya Muslims are being butchered while the world focuses on the 'plight' of just one dissident living in a comfortable house in the Burmese capital. They too would like their misery to be aired.
In Kashmir, a battle for life and death is taking place. Those who aspire to exercise their God-given right to self determination are being brutally suppressed. Neglect, long years of corrupt rule by local politicians and the unwillingness of the Indian government to honor its own commitment and pledge to hold a plebiscite has caused misery to prevail.
In other parts of India, the minority community is being targeted by certain fascist organizations with the government conveniently turning a blind eye. In Africa rife with famine and disease, political and social problems loom that will need a firm hand to check them before it's too late.
The African countries need help. It is the duty of more fortunate states to help them.
The Arab World as its faces the 21st century also stares at a multitude of problems.
A growing population, scarcity of water, extremism in certain quarters, a gnawing sense of insecurity and a general feeling that the world will pass by us do nothing to lift a heavy heart.
I am by nature not a pessimist but somehow, like many others, I am peering to see the light at the end of a long and dark tunnel. Many of us are confident we will see the light - God willing. But we have to be at first bold enough to admit that there is a tunnel. To solve a problem one has to first accept that there is one.
To say that ours is a world where everything is rosy would be tantamount to living in a fools' paradise. To go on also blaming others for our self inflicted woes and misfortunes would again reveal an illogical mental frame. Then what is to be done? I am not for forming blocs because those days are over. The world has been shattered and there is no way the mosaic of old can be placed in its former shape. The only course of action is cooperation and self dependence. The post 1945 world saw those who depended on two camps. That of the West or the Soviet Union which has now collapsed. Even the Western institutions have decayed, if not crumbled, and the main bulwark NATO has become an impotent organization which even European countries scoff at. The Europeans themselves no longer believe that the United State is dependable. That should be a lesson for many. Do not depend on others.
Of course no one and especially those Muslim States who glowed under the patronizing stares of the Soviets are going to look to them for support. Present day Russia is itself beset by a myriad of problems. However, that has not deterred it from abandoning its policy of expansion. If it does so the Muslim states will bear the brunt of their wrath.
Therefore they have to be strong enough to prevent the Russian bear from clawing them.
As delegates in Casablanca meet and discuss, they should also be aware that time waits for no man. Many of us in the Arab World believe that time takes care of everything. However, we should realize that it does not. It is we who should be bold enough to face the future by raising our self consciousness, not putting everything under the carpet and learning lessons from our past mistakes.
Summits, if one is to go by past performances, do not necessarily offer a magic wand solution.
The agenda in Casablanca is a huge one and priorities will have to be clearly set.
Goals and objectives will not be achieved overnight. But if the OIC member states have clarity of mind, conviction and the courage to go with it, outstanding issues can be resolved.
What is also needed is a quiet transformation into more mature societies where education and creativity are buzzwords and obscurantism, narrow mindedness and intolerance are deflected aside.
This will involve filling enormous gaps in vision and creating a solidarity and a sense of belonging among the people of the OIC countries.
Therefore it is imperative that institutions are created which recognize the difference in society and respond to it creating a unity in diversity.
The OIC countries cannot march ahead if there are social turbulences and no sense of community.
It therefore should aim to put its house in order and collectively gain strength which will serve as a bulwark to would-be aggressors.
And in an ever-changing world where there are no permanent friends or foes they must put their trust in God and work hard in order not to lag behind.
History will not forgive them if they do.