In a clear illustration of the extent to which the US can influence the policies of Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the member-states of the OIC held a summit inDakar, the capital of Senegal, on March 13 to "update" its charter, amend it to address "Islamic terrorism", and entrench secularism in Muslim countries. The speeches made to the gathering (particularly by the head of the Saudi delegation, Prince Saud al-Faisal), the topics and conclusions on the summit's agenda and the resulting draft resolutions made it clear that the main objective was to back the "war on terrorism" and to crack down on Islamic groups that pose a threat to the mostly oppressive and corrupt rulers in the Muslim world. Prince al-Faisal's speech even referred to the "threat" he assumes is posed by "Iran's nuclear weapons to the Arab countries, particularly the Gulf states": a clear indication that many of the OIC members attending the summit are also prepared to back the wests' wars on other Muslim countries, such as Iran.
According to a lengthy report on March 13 in ash-Sharq al-Awsat, which had obtained most of the documents covering the summit's proceedings, the gathering strongly condemned the "terrorist and criminal activities that Taliban, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups" regularly commit. The report also referred to the draft new charter that will replace the old one, saying that it "contains many activities the old charter does not".
When the original charter was adopted in 1972, what are being classified as acts of terrorism and terrorist organisations at the summit did not exist and there was no need to provide for solutions to the problems caused by them. Accordingly, the new charter must provide the mechanism and procedures for countering those problems, the report of the Saudi daily said to explain the changes to the charter. Another explanation set out in the draft charter is the need "to challenge those bent on distorting the image of Islam", which is an obvious reference to Islamic groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah, and an allusion to Islamic states such as Iran. In an effort to sound modern, the new charter calls on members to advance scientific studies and technology.
The draft resolution also made an effort to give the OIC a favourable image by declaring its backing for the people of Kosova as only one aspect of the "OIC's concern for Muslims in the Balkans". Similar efforts were made by a call for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and for a resolution of the upheaval in Lebanon. But all that sits ill with the support for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, through the call on member-states to open embassies in Baghdad and the condemnation of al-Qaeda and Taliban as terrorist organisations, as it did with the backing of al-Fatah, which represented Palestinians at the summit, and the exclusion of Hamas from its proceedings. Both Hamas and Hizbullah, dismissed as terrorist groups, are excluded from the projects advanced by the summit for the resolution of the Palestinian and Lebanese issues. Hamas, and not al-Fatah, was elected by the Palestinian people in their recent general election. But the US government and its Arab allies are not in favour of free elections in the Muslim world, despite their public calls for democratic rule there. In fact, ash-Sharq al-Awsat quotes Prince Saud al-Faisal as calling in his speech on Syria to back an end to the Lebanese crisis on the basis of the Arab initiative, "which calls for the election of the Lebanese army chief, Michel Suleiman, as head of state." The military coup by the back door will exclude Hizbullah (which is the most popular organisation in Lebanon) and will be exploited to project the exercise as a rejection of the "terrorist group" by the Lebanese people.
More seriously, some of the leading Arab members of the OIC are using force to suppress movements such as Hamas and Hizbullah. The Egyptian government even tortures Hamasmembers who escape from Israeli attacks in Ghazzah, as Hamas leaders protested soon after the conclusion of the OIC summit. According to the protest, which the government has not even bothered to contradict, many Hamas members and supporters are imprisoned and tortured as soon as they enter Egyptian territory. Hizbullah also protested (against Israel, notEgypt) by holding large gatherings in Syria to mark the assassination of one of its senior commanders two months ago. Adding to the shame of the OIC summit was the visit to the region of Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, who declared after meeting the prime minister of Israel that Hamas was responsible for the failure so far to bring about peace between Israel and the Palestinians and establish an independent Palestinian state.
Another fact that underscores the summit's support for the anti-Islamic and pro-Israeli US programme is that it was held at a time when senior US officials and military officers were resigning or protesting because of their opposition to the Iraqi war or to their government's hostility to Iran. Add to this the fact that senior advisors to the former British prime minister have expressed similar protests, with one of them even writing a book urging the West to "talk to al-Qaeda" in order to find a solution to the Iraqi and Afghan wars, which are blamed on al-Qa'ida and the Taliban. For instance, Admiral William Fall, America's supreme commander in the Middle East, took early retirement as a result of his disagreements with Bush's planned war against Iran, while Jonathan Powell, who had been Blair's chief of staff for a decade, came out strongly against the wars, stressing that there could be no peace in the region without "talking to al-Qaeda, Taliban and other terrorist groups".
The US and British governments, which are determined to continue waging both wars and to avoid talking to any of these groups, must have been delighted by the OIC summit's support for their positions against the serious criticisms of their policies by Fallon and Powell. They must have been equally pleased by the Saudi kingdom's decision to exploit the summit's conclusions and come out with a programme for the entrenchment of secularism in the kingdom. According to the programme, all imams will be ‘re-educated’ in the “real nature of Islam”, while all Islamic textbooks will be withdrawn and replaced by others. The objective of the exercise is to eradicate "Islamic extremism" and to inculcate a new ‘moderate' understanding of Islam in the kingdom.
One thing the Saudi programme, the summit's conclusions and the US war on terrorism have in common is they will not really defeat Islamic groups, whatever they seem to achieve in the short term, but will eventually help in their victory.