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Published in the 16-31 Jan 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

OIC' new SG vows reform, dialogue with West 

Professor Ekmeleddin IhsanogluJeddah: OIC’s new secretary general Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu called for reform within the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to enable the 57-nation body to work more effectively and with closer dialogue with the Western world, as he took over the office of the secretariat-general of the organization from his predecessor bdelouahed Belkeziz. Prof. Ihsanoglu took over his new post in Jeddah on 29 December, was earlier the director general of IRCICA, OIC’s cultural and research organisation based in Istanbul.

"Globalization requires that we devote special care to the reinforcement and activation of dialogue between the Muslim world on the one hand and the other groups of countries on the other, particularly the Western world, and the other major powers," Ihsanoglu said in an address at a ceremony in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. A large group of 400 dignitaries attended the ceremony late on 29 December.

MG congratulates Professor Ihsanoglu and wishes him best in his new role after his exceptional services as the head of IRCICA. MG editor has personally congratulated his old friend, Prof Ihsanoglu. In his letter, Dr Khan asked the new OIC head to take more interest in Muslim minorities: 

“I take this opportunity to remind you that the OIC has been traditionally neglecting Muslim minorities which make up over one fourths of the Ummah today. Indian Muslims, the second largest Muslim community in the world with a strength of over 140 million [official figures], have no representation whatsoever in the OIC. I would request you to look into the possibility of establishing a special department for Muslim minorities which should be made aware that the Ummah at large is interested in their well-being and raises its voice for them whenever needed like the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and the recent attacks on Thai Muslims. 

“It is not my contention at all that the OIC or the Ummah should interfere in the internal affairs of countries where Muslim minorities live but a way should be found to convey a message to both the countries as well as the minority communities that the Ummah does care about them and is eager to promote their progress and prosperity while encouraging them to integrate in their own societies. The Ummah should pressurise local governments to go out of their way to accept Muslims as equal citizens and concede their legal and logical demands. I also realise that the Ummah should help Muslim minorities only in humanitarian, social and educational fields, that it should avoid interfering in local politics.”«

Ihsanoglu, who has worked in several OIC posts for 25 years, was elected the secretary-general at a foreign ministerial meeting last June in Istanbul. It was the first time the OIC, the second biggest international organization after the United Nations, had a new secretary-general by way of vote.

The Cairo-born professor complained about the sluggish structure of the OIC, which prevented it from making its voice heard in the international political arena. He said the OIC was standing "at a cross-roads where we have to deploy a firm will towards reforming and strengthening the OIC so that we can have a say in world politics."

"The OIC has not been able to fully achieve its potential and establish itself as a powerful entity capable of actively voicing the Muslim causes and making itself heard in the international arena," he said in his speech. 

"It is evidently high time that the OIC engages in serious self-criticism …. and introduces reforms wherever necessary. Reform is the key word for the period."

This is the first time a Turkish national takes over the OIC leadership. At the time of the vote for election of the next secretary general Turkey had said that election of a Turk to the post will stregnthen Turkey’s Islamic identity. 

Speaking in Jeddah after his inauguration, Prof Ihsanoglu said, ''Turkey's voice will be heard stronger from now on.'' He added that ''I would like to say that Turkey's voice will be heard stronger from now on. Support of our government and state is obviously an indispensable incentive for us.'' 

Ihsanoglu said better results could be obtained from the reforms to be implemented within the organization and OIC will serve more to regional peace. 

Ihsanoglu said in the speech which he delivered during the previous day's ceremony, he had stressed what kind of a plan OIC had to pursue, administrative reforms to be implemented, problems of Islamic world, the changes in the world conjuncture since the foundation of OIC in 1969, policies of Islam countries, and what was needed to solve the problems. 

Ihsanoglu said he pointed to the changes that should be done within the organization, stating that, ''great interest was shown to me here. Diplomats from Islamic and European countries and representatives from Russia and China attended the ceremony. They will have the opportunity to see the new policies of the OIC.''

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