The Islamic Summit hosted by Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, with the theme of “The Role of Development in Achieving National Sovereignty,” was attended at the presidential level by Malaysia, Turkey, Iran and Qatar, received participation from 18 countries at various levels, with as many as 450 Muslim thinkers, academics, scholars and opinion leaders from all parts of the Muslim world.
It should be noted that participation particularly by prominent opinion leaders renders this summit even more important. Though Pakistan and Indonesia, which had previously reported top-level participation in the summit, withdrew their participation upon pressure by Saudi Arabia left its mark on the event, this development, with the attendance of intellectuals and opinion leaders, confirmed general views concerning the state of the Islamic world.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan formulated the summit’s quest around the question of how Muslims are so behind in today’s world, despite the abundance of opportunities, wealth, cultural and geographical advantages. Unfortunately, there has been nobody at such a level to seek an answer to this critical question, which has been hanging over the Muslim world since the 19th century. Alongside many reasons, of course, the most important reason for this is related to the Muslims world’s independence. The Islamic world that was exposed to colonial conditions post-World War I did not have the authority to pursue this question. On the contrary, all political systems were instated to render this state of Muslims permanent.
Yet today, it is their own administrators that have enslaved the Islamic world rather than the colonial countries. Though, unfortunately, as the Muslim world that comprises of a quarter of the world population is unable to form a union among itself, its weight in world economy is less than 10 percent, and weight amid political power balances is less than 2 percent. As highlighted by President Erdoğan during his speech, the income difference between the wealthiest and poorest Islamic country is over 200-fold. In Islamic countries, which possess 59 percent of global oil reserves and 58 percent of natural gas reserves, 350 million Muslims are struggling to survive under extreme poverty.
The share of Muslims in global health expenditure, despite making up a quarter of the world population, is merely 4 percent. The rate of literacy in the Islamic world stands at about 70 percent, while the same rate is 82.5 percent for the world.
Right now, 94 percent of those who die in clashes through the world are Muslim, because one-third of the weapons sold in the world are bought by Muslim countries and are generally used against each other.
All these problems depict why the Muslim world has fallen behind in today’s world, and the biggest reason behind this picture is not non-Muslims, but unfortunately the own players and administrators of the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia, Iran and the UAE are the ones who can boast the lion’s share for the problem of migration and refugees, one of the most pressing issues currently burdening the Islamic world. Take a look at the region producing migration in the Muslim world, and the reasons underlying these exoduses. You will see primary involvement of these three countries in all of them. These countries are also in the front line when it comes to matters such as the destabilization of the Muslim world, the lack of freedom of thought in the Islamic world, and the systematic violation of the most basic human rights. Under these circumstances, there is no need to seek who is responsible anywhere else.
Efforts are required at every level to find a solution to these problems. But first, these problems need to be defined as such. An atmosphere of dialogue to be launched between countries that accept these as problems, must truly and sincerely prioritize the answer to why the Muslim world is in such a state.
The Kuala Lumpur summit was started as one of these sincere initiatives. While Turkey has been sincerely responding to this attempt by Malaysia, it did not consider it to be an attempt against anybody in any way. On the contrary, when this initiative was first started five years ago, despite Turkey being the term president of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), it did not consider this as an alternative pursuit against it and participated. Sincerity also requires humility. Nobody’s greatness will be harmed by answering a call that is for benefit. Meanwhile, those who display arrogance in the face of such efforts will shrink in the eyes of history as well as the ummah.
Saudi Arabia, by making unprecedented and extraordinary diplomatic efforts to sabotage the Kuala Lumpur Summit, to which it was invited, instead of participating, it wrote another page in history to serve as a lesson. Had it made such negative efforts against India, the Kashmir question would have been resolved; if it made such efforts against Israel, the Palestinian issue would have been resolved; if it made such efforts against Myanmar, the Rohingya issue would have been resolved.
What could it have possibly achieved by convincing Pakistan and Indonesia to withdraw from the summit through threats to sabotage the event, which it considers as efforts to create an alternative to the OIC, of which it is the term president?
Did it not legitimize and expedite the pursuit for such an alternative?
Are Muslims now aware of the obvious problems that have also been discussed at the summit? Is there a solution aimed at these problems? For example, does it have a plan on program for union, integrity and solidarity that complies with the leadership claim it took upon itself among the Muslim world? If not, is it going to carry on its own leadership claim in the Muslim world through such plots, factions or polarization among the ummah? These questions are now inevitably going to be asked in a louder voice.