Islamic cooperation: Delusion or a force?
Sunan Rustam ; The writer works
at the Indonesian Permanent Mission of the OIC in Riyadh
One cannot ask for more when holding a Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the ancient city of Istanbul and tulips are everywhere to be seen. Over half of the OIC’s leaders, including the custodian of the two holy mosques and Vice President Jusuf Kalla, attended the 13th summit on April 14–15, making it one of the most anticipated events in the Islamic world.
Under the theme “Unity and solidarity for justice and peace”, the summit produced several documents, chiefly a Final Communique, OIC Plan of Action 2016–2025, Resolution on the Cause of Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif and the Istanbul Declaration. Of these outcome documents, the Final Communique is the gist of the summit, reflecting not only the past but also the present and future directions of the organization, which is second in size after the UN.
A general observation of the Final Communique reveals a wide range of issues that the OIC is attempting to tackle, from current situations in the Middle East to Islamophobia and terrorism. But perhaps the issue that may elevate the role of the OIC is the Turkish government’s proposal to establish the OIC Center for Police Cooperation and Coordination as a follow up to a resolution of the 40th Council of Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Conakry in 2013. This could be a game changer.
When the OIC proceeds with the proposal, for the first time in history, the organization will have a worldwide network of law enforcement agencies tasked with combating terrorism. In the long run, the center may become a basis for further enforcement cooperation among OIC member states. It is not far-fetched to argue that the center could be the impetus for the OIC collective defense mechanism — the birth of OIC Green Helmet troops.
Although some experts deem the OIC collective defense as an illusion due to the lack of collective political commitments and resources, the current geopolitical situations in the Islamic world beg to differ.
Take the 2015 Islamic Military Alliance led by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism. The alliance changed its name to the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism in early 2016 and currently has 39 member states, over two thirds of OIC member states.
Further, the center will not exhaust OIC resources because of its status as specialized agency, instead of being a subsidiary organ that mandates specific contributions from member states.
Contributions to the center are voluntary and therefore will not burden the already overwhelmed budgetary issues of the OIC. The Turkish government has everything in place to set the initiative in motion.
Indonesia’s position regarding terrorism is clear, anyway. After the terror attack in Jakarta in mid-January, on many occasions President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has refreshed Indonesia’s commitment to counterterrorism in all forms. The commitment includes, among other things, bilateral, regional and international cooperation where deemed necessary.
So where is Indonesia in the equation? As far as fighting terrorism is concerned, Indonesia welcomes international cooperation. The Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC) was founded to facilitate such a partnership. As a center of excellence, the JCLEC is equipped not only with vast international experience, but also much-needed resources in counterterrorism.
As part of international commitments to combat terrorism, Indonesia initiated a new OIC contact group called the Contact Group on Peace and Conflict Resolution at the summit. Comprised of several OIC member states, the contact group will meet, discuss and recommend effective ways and strategies to fight terrorism. This initiative is a response to the 42nd session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) on joint vision to strengthen tolerance and reject terrorism in Kuwait in May last year.
At the CFM, OIC member states agreed to take concrete actions to manage challenges of the Islamic world through conflict resolution, promoting tolerance and building effective strategies to combat terrorism, violent extremism and Islamophobia — concrete actions that could send powerful messages of peace to the world.
This is Indonesia’s concrete action in the ongoing situation in the Islamic world, especially in the Middle East and African regions, which are marked by political conflicts in Syria, Yemen and several other countries, and the widespread network, recruitment and atrocities of the Islamic State (IS) movement and other terrorist groups.
Without doubt this has triggered friction and tension that has affected not only relations among Islamic states but also between OIC members and the world.
President Jokowi initiated the idea during an informal gathering to strengthen solidarity and cooperation within the Islamic world at the margin of the 2015 Asian-African Conference in Jakarta. The main objective of the contact group is to build a framework and communication strategy toward finding the best solution to problems facing the Islamic world.
The contact group is also a manifestation of the Islamic principle rakhmatan lil alamin (blessing for all creation), which is held dear to current Indonesian foreign policy. In addition, the contact group will work on the basis of peaceful means, including dialogue and political mediation. And in so doing, the contact group will uphold the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity of states as well as norms and practices in international relations.
In summary, the Turkish proposal to establish a law enforcement cooperation and the Indonesian initiative to form a contact group at the 13th OIC Summit have something in common, which is combating terrorism. If the two concepts can be synergized, the effect could unleash a force that would elevate the OIC to a whole new level, sending positive waves not only across the Islamic world, but also beyond. To quote Master Yoda of Star Wars, the force is strong with this one. ●