Omer Faruk Yil Diz
Whenever a catastrophe befalls Muslims anywhere in the world, many would react with stereotypical behaviour claiming that this would never happen if all Muslim nations are united.
However, many endeavours by Muslims that glamorously draw a “unity” image have culminated in fiasco.
Such failures teach us that no success will emerge from huge gatherings unless there is a sincere intention to produce something tangible.
The Kuala Lumpur Summit (KL Summit) 2019 constitutes a lesson learnt from past failures of Muslims in holding big gatherings and joint protests, and making bold declarations.
Quantitatively, what we witnessed was not like a huge Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) gathering, as Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had already stated that the summit makes no such claim.
However, in Islamic public opinion, this summit was regarded as more promising than many of the previous OIC gatherings.
What has rendered the summit promising is the sincere intention to do something.
During the 74th United Nations General Assembly, the trilateral meeting between the leaders of Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan, and the joint projects proposed afterwards probably saw the sowing of the seeds of this gathering in Malaysia.
The fact that the summit drew considerable attention — along with criticism from some Muslims — even before it began was indeed a sign that it has the potential to trigger real changes in the Islamic world.
That is why some powers among the Muslims, which seem to be contented with the status quo of the ummah, refused to take part in this gathering.
As is known, the summit was to have been pioneered by Malay-sia, Turkey, Pakistan, Qatar and Indonesia.
Yet, changes of mind by Pakistan and Indonesia happened, which led to an unexpectedly high-level participation by Iran.
Eventually, the leaders of four participant nations made a substantial difference, addressing the key and less-mentioned issues of the Muslim world.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasised once more that the five permanent Security Council members of the United Nations no longer determine the fate of Muslims, saying that “the world is bigger than five”.
Apart from suggesting a new and more peaceful world order, he also underlined the inadequacy of the Islamic world to remedy the plight of the Palestinians, as well as offering any solution to sectarian divisions among the Muslims.
It was indeed an implicit message to the Muslim world suggesting some serious changes in approach.
Making no compromise on his realism, Dr Mahathir explicitly talked about the facts of the Muslim world, referring to the mistakes, shortcomings and inefficiencies of followers.
He also gave a reminder of the golden age of Muslims when they were regarded as the best model in science, technology and art, and stated that Muslims have no other way but to work hard, study science and produce if they want to rebuild the “Great Islamic Civilisation”.
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Hamad Al Thani talked about the defects of Muslims just like Dr Mahathir as he blamed some “Islamic” regimes that exploit religion, disregard human rights and cause fragmentation.
He demonstrated once more that Qatar will not follow the attempts by the Gulf nations to isolate Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani put forward similar points along with a significant proposal to initiate a Muslim cryptocurrency as a game-changer in the face of the US dollar’s monopoly.
All in all, what we observe from the speeches and the outcomes of the KL Summit is that quality matters in order to make changes for the Islamic world, as suggested by Dr Mahathir repeatedly.
This has been a small but meaningful start by a few nations.
No sectarian differences were highlighted and no key issues that needed to be talked about were bypassed.
The main focus was how to overcome the underdevelopment in the Muslim world and revive the Islamic civilisation by any means.
Such a spirit produced very good initiatives from the participants. The agreement between Turkey and Malaysia to establish a communication centre that aims to combat global Islamophobia is one of them.
A proposed formation of a centre of excellence in scientific and technological research is also another tangible solution, while the agreements between Turkey and Malaysia in the fields of science and defence are among the constructive outcomes of this summit.
If one should summarise what the KL Summit means for the Muslim world, it would have been through reference to the unforgettable remarks of Dr Mahathir on the joint TV channel project by Turkey-Malaysia-Pakistan: “This special TV channel is a move to do things instead of just making a declaration and forgetting about it.”
This is what the summit was all about. Rather than declaring some assertive statements, condemnations and proposals — soon to be forgotten — these few nations decided to do something, big or small.
The writer works at the international news media Anadolu Agency, Turkey, as Malaysia Representative
Published in: The New Straits Times, Monday 23 December 2019