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‘Western countries didn’t take OIC seriously’

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said, “We have failed both the Palestinians and the people of Kashmir. I am sad to say that we have been able to make no impact at all.” Western countries did “not take the OIC seriously” because “we are a divided house and those powers know it.

Imran Khan delivering a keynote address at the inaugural session of the 48th Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation said, “We (Muslims) are 1.5 billion people and yet our voice to stop this blatant injustice is insignificant.”

PM Imran said international law was on the side of the people of Palestine and Kashmir, adding that the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions backed the right of the Kashmiris to self-determination through a plebiscite. However, the international community never ensured that right was given, he said.

Referring to India’s stripping of occupied Kashmir’s special status in August 2019, he said “nothing happened because they (India) feel no pressure.”

“They feel we can just [pass] a resolution and then [go] back to our usual business.”

He cautioned that unless the OIC was united on core issues, human rights abuses would keep happening such as the “daylight robbery in Palestine”.

“The only hope I have is that for the first time because of social media, there is awareness in Western countries. Much more than the OIC, it is the mobile phone and the spread of information of the injustices being done to the Palestinians … at the moment, that is the best way to protect them, not us.”

He said India was changing the demography in occupied Kashmir by bringing in settlers from outside but “no one has pushed about it because they think we are ineffective.”

Resolution against Islamophobia

The PM began his speech congratulating the Muslim world for the recent adoption of a resolution against Islamophobia by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), that proclaims March 15 as International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

He said the world was now realising that Islamophobia was a reality and more needed to be done to combat it.

“Why was Islam equated with terrorism?” Imran questioned, and referred to the Christchurch attack on a mosque as a consequence of this stereotyping.

“Once that happens, how is the man in the street in Western countries, how is he supposed to differentiate between a moderate Muslim and a radical Muslim? Hence, this man walks into a mosque and shoots everyone he could.”

The prime minister said it was unfortunate that the Muslim world was not able to combat this image of Muslims. “What should have been done wasn’t; the heads of Muslim countries should have taken a stand on this. Unfortunately, this narrative of Islamic terrorism, Islamic radicalisation, this narrative went on unchecked.”

In response to this wave of Islamophobia, PM Imran said, some Muslim heads of state said they were moderate Muslims. “When you say this, you automatically say there are some extremist Muslims.”

There were moderates, liberals, conservatives and fanatics in every human community, he said. But it was only Muslims who were “branded based on their religion”, he added.

Muslim states had made the “biggest mistake” by not challenging the narrative because of which Muslims residing in Western countries suffered, he said.

“Any time any terrorist incident by Muslims happened, [it] immediately meant that every Muslim [was] branded. How could the whole community be responsible for some fanatical deed by some extremists?” he asked.

“They were able to vilify our religion and yet there was no coherent response from the Muslim world.” Referring to the recently passed UNGA resolution, the premier said he hoped that from now onwards, the Muslim community would be able to put forward its narrative and explain to the West why Islamophobic acts, including “insulting Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) hurts [Muslims] so much.”

He also spoke about the state of Madinah, which he said had laid the foundation of “one of the greatest civilisations in human history”.

He said he was glad that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was attending the moot because he wanted people to understand what brought about “one of the greatest revolutions of all time”.

“The state of Madinah was ahead of its time and it was the first welfare state in the world. It was a state that took care of its weak, orphans, widows, poor people.”

The premier said he was saddened because some European states “look after their animals better than some of us treat our people”.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had sparked a “revolution for the quest of knowledge”, he said. Comparing the situation to that of today, the prime minister rued, “wherever you go … we imprison our women, they have no rights. And sometimes, it almost seems the US invaded Afghanistan to liberate the women.

“Sadly, cultural issues are equated with our religion … Let’s not confuse Muslim imperialism with the 10 years of the Prophet in Madinah. Because that’s not what the Prophet preached. The whole revolution was about ideas.”

Afghanistan and Ukraine

The premier also spoke about the global situation, expressing his apprehension that the world is “headed in the wrong way”.

A new Cold War had almost started and the world could be divided into blocs, he said, stressing that unless 1.5bn Muslims took a united stand, “we will be nowhere.”

No other people had suffered as much as the people of Afghanistan, he said, adding that for the first time in 40 years, there was “no conflict” in the war-torn country. “The only danger now is through the sanctions [imposed on Afghanistan] and non-recognition”, which could cause a humanitarian crisis, he cautioned.

He said it was “extremely important” to stabilise Afghanistan because it was the “only way we are going to be able to stop international terrorism from Afghan soil”.

“Let’s not be delusional that some other country can come in and fight terrorism through drones. The only way is a stable Afghanistan government that can take care of terrorism.

“Anyone who knows the Afghan character should be cautioned, please do not push the people of Afghanistan where they feel their sovereignty is being threatened.”

The premier called on the OIC to encourage the Afghan people and include them in the international community, saying he believed the “people of Afghanistan are strong enough to evolve and go in the right direction.”

Talking about the ongoing war in Ukraine, PM Imran suggested that the OIC foreign ministers should discuss how the body could “mediate, try to bring about a ceasefire and an end to the conflict”.

If the war continued, it would have “great consequences for the world”, he cautioned. “All countries that are non-partisan are in a special position to be able to influence this conflict.”

He again repeated his suggestion that the foreign ministers discuss the issue, adding that he would also talk about it with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi about how the OIC, along with China, “can influence the events in Ukraine and stop this and have some ceasefire and resolve this conflict”.

Earlier, in his opening speech, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi stressed that the forum is a bridge amongst Muslim nations and the rest of the world, highlighting its role in resolving conflicts in the Muslim world.

Before his opening remarks, Pakistan assumed the chair of the 48th session of the moot with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi chairing the session.

The two-day annual meeting of the 57-member body of Muslim countries is being held under the theme of ‘Building Partnerships for Unity, Justice, and Development’. About 46 member states are being represented at the ministerial level in the meeting. The rest will be represented by senior officials.

Qureshi urges collective response

Qureshi urged the OIC to forge a collective response to meet the challenges faced by the Muslim Ummah, emphasising that the OIC is the collective voice of nearly two billion Muslims.

“It is a bridge amongst the Muslim countries and the international community. Promoting solidarity and cooperation within the Muslim Ummah is one of the central pillars of Pakistan’s foreign policy,” he said, adding that Pakistan’s overarching goal as chair of the 48th session of the OIC meeting shall be to further solidify the cooperation amongst the Muslim countries.

“The Muslim world is faced with conflicts in the Middle East, prolonged foreign occupation, and the denial of the right to self-determination, most notably to the people of Palestine and Kashmir,” Qureshi said.

“The Muslims of Palestine and the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) are still reeling under abominable subjugation. For the last seven decades, they have struggled to achieve their inalienable right to self-determination,” the foreign minister noted.

Resentment in Muslims, he pointed out, is increasing due to frequent external interventions in Muslim countries. “More than two-thirds of all refugees worldwide come from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, and Somalia.”

Qureshi said Muslim countries are hosting the largest number of refugees [presently].

“While we must work to prevent outside interference in the Muslim World, we alone can find solutions to internal fissures and challenges. The key to ending these conflicts and disputes is comprehensive engagement and cooperation among the Islamic countries,” he suggested.

A similar resolve and unity, the minister urged, is needed in countering what he referred to as the ideologies of hate such as Islamophobia and right-wing racism. “Repeated incidents of desecration of the Holy Quran and reprinting of caricatures have seriously hurt the sentiments of Muslims across the world. They also cause great anguish within the Islamic world.”

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha, Islamic Development Bank President Dr Muhammad Suleiman Al-Jasser, Chinese State Councilor, and Foreign Minister Wangi Yi also addressed the session. A video message by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was shown as well.

‘China stands with Palestinians’

Taking the stage at the OIC moot, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that maintaining friendly relations lies at the heart of the traditions of China.

“China can never forget the support of the Islamic world in the United Nations,” he said, assuring unwavering assistance for the Muslims in Palestine.

“China stands with the Palestinian people for a two-state solution.”

Regarding Afghanistan, Yi assured that China stands with the war-torn country for all possible assistance and cooperation for peace, development, and reconstruction.

He revealed that China has, so far, donated 1.3bn coronavirus vaccine doses to 50 countries and promised 300 million more doses. “We are also investing $400bn in 600 projects in the Muslim world.”

More than 54 countries, he said, are a part of the One Belt One Road Initiative, which is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013.

The Chinese minister stressed that clashes between nations should be avoided via negotiations and dialogue, which is also what China is in favour.

“China stands ready for cooperation with the Islamic world,” he vowed, adding that the country is ready to work for regional security, stability, and development.

Talking about the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Yi said that China supports negotiations between the two countries.

Meeting’s agenda

During the two-day conference, more than 100 resolutions will be overviewed.

The agenda of the meeting covers a review of the developments affecting the Muslim world since the last CFM held in Niamey in 2020 and efforts undertaken by the secretariat for the implementation of resolutions adopted in previous sessions, especially on Palestine and Al Quds.

The participants would also deliberate on the situation in Afghanistan and India-held Jammu and Kashmir.

Issues pertaining to Africa and Muslims in Europe and developments in Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Syria, will also be taken up at the meeting.

The agenda, moreover, includes Islamophobia and issues related to international terrorism and cooperation in economic, cultural, social, humanitarian, and scientific domains.

On March 23, foreign ministers will visit the venue of the Pakistan Day parade. Later in the day, FM Qureshi along with OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha will hold a joint press stakeout following the conclusion of the session.

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