Transcend Media Service — Pre-Islamic Arabia lived for a long time under various forms of asabiya, which meant chauvinism to the Arab race, to the tribe, or to a clan within the tribe. This was the source of many long-lasting wars. In the year 610, Prophet Muhammad, 40 years old, received the first verses of The Quran, challenging the social and political order. Asabiya yielded to brotherhood-sisterhood in a community of values, the Umma, from Umm, meaning mother. Arabs engaged with enthusiasm in this new “matriotism” based on an Islamic religion stating that “there is no difference between an Arab and a non‑Arab, or between a White and a Black, except by degree of piety.” Blood, race, ethnic group, color, gender, etc. vanished in favor of oneness of origin, freedom, justice, and above all rahma, meaning true love.
The Umma was guided by the Prophet, and ruled after his death by the Rightly Guided Successors (al‑Khulafa, ar‑Rashidun). But only 30 years after the death of the Prophet, in 661, the values he taught were violated. The political order was corrupted, reverting to asabiya.
Thus began a long decline of Muslim society. Even though there was a formal Khilafa (Caliphate), the Umma was split into countless political‑military fragments based on repression and corruption. Autocracy and cleptocracy became the rule. At the end, this would open the doors to various forms of external aggression. By the nineteenth century the seeds of “colonisability”– a term coined by Algerian philosopher Malek Bennabi – were there. Colonization became easy. In 1924, the Ottoman Caliphate was dismantled.
After political independence, the elites imported the secularist nation‑state model and imposed it on their populations. Nation‑based asabiya (nationalism) was born. Emphasizing strong cultural attachment among one people, several types of nationalism like Arabism, Turanism (Turkey) and Persianism arose, necessarily leading to minority‑based asabiya such as Kurdism and Berberism etc.
Regional organizations emerged in the Umma geographic space from West Africa to the Far East. The oldest one was the League of Arab States founded on March 22, 1945 (seven months before the United Nations in October 1945), with 22 member-states to “foster economic growth in the region, to resolve disputes between its members, and to coordinate political aims.” However, the last six decades or more have brought neither peace nor prosperity to the Arab World. It was always undermined by the asabiya of its members and their contradictory goals, and by foreign interference and influence. The only operational body is the Council of the Ministers of Interior, which coordinates their repressive policies.
On September 25, 1969, a larger organization was founded by leaders of Muslim states at a conference in Rabat to safeguard the interests of the Umma. It was a political reaction to the arson attack inside al‑Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem (al‑Quds) by Denis Michael Rohan (August 21). The Muslim leaders would have preferred an Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), but countries with large non‑Muslim minorities objected. They kept OIC with “C” meaning Conference, a reference to the Rabat Summit.
Four decades after its creation, on June 28, 2011, during the 38th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of OIC at Astana, Kazakhstan, member-states agreed to change the name to the Organization for Islamic Cooperation. The organization now stands for Cooperation, not Conference.
According to an OIC press release, “the new resolution reflects a qualitative shift in the performance of the Organization and enormous enhancement of its effectiveness as an international body active in diverse areas of politics, economy, culture and society.” With its 57 member-states spread over four continents, the OIC is the second biggest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations. It should, and will have, an active role in a globalized world structured around regional entities.
With greater freedom and prosperity, its 1.6 billion constituency of Muslims will push towards more economic, even political integration. Despite opposition from imperialist and neo‑colonial powers, progress towards integration will lead to an organization of the Islamic community – a twenty-first century Umma‑Khilafa model. The Islamic community will not be a chauvinist entity built on the antagonism with others. It will rather be an open space based on consolidation of Muslim unity and cooperation with others for peace and prosperity for all humanity.
Could an organization of the Islamic community institutionalize the vision of a peaceful Islam? The European Community–Union is also built on the vision of a Europe with inter-state wars not only ruled out, but “unthinkable.” today. However, this argument leaves out the third realm of treaties and pacts, for instance, between a future OIC and the EU in a regionalized, potentially more mature world. Important preparatory work has been done in EU-OIC dialogues.
The new OIC of cooperation will pose a major challenge to the United Nations. Of the five Security Council veto power-wielding members, four are Christian: the United States, (Evangelical), Britain (Anglican), France (Catholic-secular), Russia (Orthodox) and China (Daoist-Confucian-Buddhist). OIC outsizes them all, even China.
This is totally unfair, because the borders fragmenting the Islamic community were mainly drawn by Western powers. It also makes UN Security Council resolutions against Muslim countries illegitimate. Muslim veto power could have saved many human lives, as well as the USA-led West against unwise policies. Moreover, it could have opened the way for a more balanced United Nations and greater regional action. A modernized Security Council would accommodate the OIC; and the EU rather than two of its members. The idea of collectivities of states is enshrined in the Charter for Defense, making a transition possible from the world of 1945 to the world of today.