The setting could not have been more ideal: Makkah, the most sacred spot on earth. The timing could not have been more perfect: The most blessed nights of a most sacred month. And the stewardship of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, a leader held in high esteem by the international community, invested the event with suitable grandeur.
By any standard, the extraordinary Islamic summit which concluded in Makkah on Thursday was a great success.
Almost all member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation attended the gathering, the second of its kind taking place during King Abdullah’s reign. The only exception was Syria which was suspended from the OIC.
The decision to suspend was taken with near unanimity. President Bashar Al-Assad no longer enjoys any legitimacy in the eyes of the Syrian people. By suspending Syria from the OIC, the summit was only recognizing a fact which the Syrian people have been proclaiming to the whole world with great sacrifices.
It would have been an assault on common decency and an insult to the public opinion everywhere if Assad were to strut the stage in Makkah while his security forces were fiendishly killing people in their hundreds in Damascus, Aleppo and other cities and towns of Syria. The summit was expressing solidarity with the long-suffering Syrian people. With OIC’s decision Syria finds itself in total isolation within the Muslim world. By going against the majority decision to suspend Syrian membership of the pan-Islamic body, Iran once again showed how out of step it was with the sentiments of the Muslim world.
So in a way the summit deepened Iran’s isolation too.
If Syria cast its long shadow over the summit, the leaders who converged on Makkah knew this was not the only issue agitating the minds of Muslims the world over. There were the massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, the never-ending agony of Palestinians caused by Israeli intransigence, the Afghan imbroglio and disturbing signs of sectarian rift in some parts of the Muslim world.
The last deserved and received special attention. In fact, while proposing the summit, King Abdullah has drawn attention to the dangers of fragmentation and sedition facing the Muslim world. Abdullah is not a leader who believes that his duty ends with drawing attention to a problem. No, he wanted some concrete action to stem the tide.
Addressing the summit, he called for the creation of a center to promote harmony between different sects of Islam. The center is to be set up in Riyadh with its members drawn from the OIC member states. The center will aim to narrow differences in opinion among the followers of Islam and work for unity. This is the only way to prevent sectarian conflicts and civil wars resulting from different opinions and viewpoints. Disunity has done enough harm to Muslims everywhere, apart from inviting ridicule from our enemies. Is it not time to put an end to mutual bickering based on trivial issues?