Date: July 18, 2000
Mowahid H. Shah
Columnist, Pakistan Link
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The Enemy Within

by Mowahid H. Shah

The foreign ministers of the 56-member Islamic Conference (OIC) held a 4-day conference at Kuala Lumpur. As usual, it went through the motions of harping over old resolutions and dawdling over reports whose relevance and readership, if any, is dubious. Apparently, the only damage done was to the chickens.

Crucially, on Iraq, there was no attempt to develop a consensus to lift the sanctions. The Saddam regime is atrocious but so are U.S.-directed sanctions under the hijab of the U.N.

More odious, however, is the lackadaisical and supine response of Muslim elites. An arson attack on the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem sparked the founding of the OIC in 1969. With Faisal of Saudi Arabia as its driving spirit, the Islamic Conference reached its zenith when it met in Lahore in February 1974, shortly after the Arab-Israeli War of October 1973 -- one of the most intensely fought contests of modern times. Following the suspicious circumstances of Faisal's assassination in March 1975, the OIC gradually lost its focus and elan becoming, in effect, a rubber stamp for the moneyed Arab Establishment. Leadership was by mouth rather than by example.

Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, ex-UNSCOM chief inspector Richard Butler, and the Vatican have condemned the sanctions on Iraq. Even aggressive U.S. inspector Scott Ritter told the New York Times that there are hardly any weapons of mass destruction left in Iraq. Hence, the stated purpose of the sanctions has become redundant.

But quietly flows the Islamic Conference. In a backward step, OIC Secretary General, Morocco's Ezzedine Laraki -- who preferred to live in his Maghreb homeland rather than in the Jeddah HQ -- will be replaced by another Moroccan, Abdelouhed Belkiz, despite protests that under the principle of rotation (and of balance), it was Asia's turn for the job. At a time of great turmoil in the Muslim world, OIC has come across as flat. Sometimes, 'do nothing' organizations have the effect of smothering the emergence of bona fide action-oriented ones.

Muslim organizations, constantly bogged down in non-issues, infighting, and finger-pointing at the external 'enemies of Islam,' would do well to occasionally pause and hold up their own elite structures to closer scrutiny. They may instructed as was a general long ago who, deputed to do a study on the enemy, came up with a terse finding: "Gentlemen, we have met the enemy. And it is us."

[Mowahid H. Shah is a member of the District of Columbia bar, former law partner of Sen. Abourezk, and a writer on international affairs.] back button