Ekmeleddin Ihsanoğlu, former Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation(OIC) uttered: “There will be no advancement in Islamic countries unless democracy is well-established.”
Interview: FARUK ÇAKIR - SÜREYYA NUR İŞLER
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Photos: ERHAN AKKAYA – YeniAsya
Translation: Sueda Çakır
Prof. Ihsanoglu, has answered several questions of Yeni Asya.
“When I was elected as the Secretary Generalof OIC, we made a list of reforms that the Islamic world needed such as democracy, effective communication, women's rights, and ensuring that human rights are respected. And we formed a 100-person "scholar group" from the Islamic world.”
“I am confident and do believe that the Islamic world will one day gather energy and accomplish theirrightfulclaim peacefully. This will certainly happen with the establishment of democracies in Islamic countries. "
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, former Secretary General of OIC has answered the questions of Yeniasya. (2)
Islamic World is in need of Democracy
EkmeleddinIhsanoglu, the former General Secretary, who tells the works he did in OIC said: “Ibelieve that the Islamic world will one day gather energy and end theirrightful case peacefully. This will certainly happen with the establishment of democracies in Islamic countries.”
First of all, you have a lot of scientific and diplomatic experience. As the son of İhsan Efendiwell known Islamic scholar and based on your book "İhsan Efendi from Yozgat", which you tell about your father, what is the most valuable legacy left to you from your father who contributed to your experiences?
The most precious legacy of my life is the legacy of my father, which is the fact that he was an exemplary person, a model, having dignity, calmness, deep faith and a morality of the Qur'an. As I described in my biography book titled” KaybolanDünyadanNurlu Bir SimaYozgatlı İhsan Efendi” Ihsan Efendi and the several virtues that Ihsan Efendi’s generation had and are about to disappear nowadays; let me explain it with a memory: When I was 6-7 years old, we were returning from a Friday prayer with my father, andwe stopped by the greengrocer, my father bought some fruit to take home. Then, I took a tangerine from the basket there. Then we walked back home. When wewere about entering the house, my father saw the tangerine and asked: "What is this, who gave it?" I said, "Nobody gave it, I took it." We returned to the store immediately and my father asked me to give it back and apologize." The man in the grocery store was surprised and said, "He is only a child, no worries, let me give two of them". However,my father said, "Thank you." I put it in its place and we went back home.In that sense, if you learn such a lesson as a child,itwould shape all of your life experiences accordingly. In other words, that memory involves many points as not reaching out to haram, someone else’s property, or not acting without permission of the other. And, Alhamdulillah, I have held many academic and diplomatic positions both at home and abroad,in all these years there is a no single misconduct that I felt sorry for. I have never left behind any criticism or allegationin these matters, even, I came out by making those institutions wealthier.
You have reached many successes in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Lastly, you were awarded the highest order of the Muslims of Russia in 2019. You have turned the tension and conflict in the Islamic world into cooperation in 9 years. What was the secret of your success?
When you begin a new endeavor,you need to have a clear concept and vision of the matter you are dealing with.Secondly, you have to fix your will and determination. The third phase is to cooperate, that is, to work with whoever the parties of the issue are. Otherwise, you will not be able to succeed.The day I became the secretary general of the organization, the things I would doin the first 100 days and later in 6 months to stimulate the organization and make up for the deficiencies were clear in my mind. In addition, I prepared a 10-year Plan of Action. Then, we had a summit meeting, where I had my 10-year plan of action accepted. Among them, we compiled a list of reforms that the Islamic world is in need of such as democracy, effective communication, women's rights, and ensuring that human rights are respected. Also, we discussed lots of things from the name of the organization to its content and conditions. And we formed a 'scholar group' consisting of 100 people from the Islamic world in every field such as religion, sociology, economics,international relations, science. And we discussed with them day and night for a few days and prepared summaries. With these summaries, we turned it into a 10-year program of Actionand presented it to the summit.
The summit meeting approved the plan. So, this became a very strong leverage to implement these reforms. Otherwise, ifI had submitted these plans by myself, most of them would not have been realized. The fact that I came to office through election had been my greatest strength. I had been the first secretary general elected, not by agreement of one or two states, and the first and only so far. It was my wish that those who will come after us will come to office through election, but it did not happen.
You emphasized human rights and democracy and said that you are trying to implement them within the 10-year plan. So, how would you interpret the current situation?
Some majorchanges had been made in official documents to realize this, for sure.First of all, the name of the organization has changed from Organization of Islamic Conference to Organization of Islamic Cooperation which is a significant change. Its emblem has also been changed and acquired universal character. The Charter of the Organization was completely changed and the new Charter for the first time in the history of Organization expressed the compatibility of universal values and our Islamic principles; and called upon member countries to adopt these norms vis a vis good governance, human rights, women’s rights, and transparency. Thereupon, we established a permanent commission of human rights to be elected from 10 countries, consisting of permanent and independent persons on human rights. Of course, in an intergovernmental organization, it is not possible for you as the secretary general or as a thinker to have everything you want. But the binding documents that we passed through this 2005 summit paved the way for us and we completed it.
The most important thing in the work of the commission we established was to review the Cairo Declarationof Human Rights made in 1991.It was done under very difficult conditions at that time. It was very difficult to change that. Now, according to the last information I got, they reviewed and changed it and sent me the text. And in the end, it turned out just as we wanted it, very conveniently. The organization has shown success in dealing with the issues of Muslim minorities all over the world. However, some of difficult issues of the Muslim communities continue as of today. But now, we have displayed very open stances on the big issues of the Islamic communities, such as the Uyghur Turks issue, the Turkish Cypriots and Myanmar issue. We have given very clear messages to the governments about the protection of the cultural and religious rights of the people of these communities. We made suggestions and proposals to the relevant governments. Unfortunately, our efforts on this path werenot sustained, they continued in a different way. Though, these people have no hope outside of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
While we were dealing with these issues, the American government was mentioning Myanmar only in a paragraph or two in its comprehensive human rights report. As a result of our work and contacts, and in the offer I, by myself made to PresidentObama, he included a paragraph in his speech at the university when he went to the capital of Myanmar. We went there with 4-5 foreign ministers from delegations from different OIC countries. Our Foreign Minister at that time was Ahmet Davutoglu, and he also joined. This visit made an impact. But before we left, we made an agreement with the President of Myanmar on some issues in order to make it easier for health services, vocational training and humanitarian aid to reach there. If these had continued, it would probably be in favor of the Muslims there, unfortunately it did not. I am still hoping for it to happen.
I will say something very sad now; In the Islamic world, in their societies, there is no energy, that is, there was energy in the past and this energy would drive the countries somewhere. Now this energy is gone. This energy is dissipated by quarreling over petty matters and creating conflict. For example, the events in Jerusalem, the Golan issue… There is not much reaction in the Islamic world against the acts that violate the natural and historical rights of the Palestinians. There used to be demonstrations and demonstrations, now it doesn't exist. Why, because there is no energy left, and the existing energy is being discharged to useless matters. But I am hopeful and I believe that one day, the Islamic world will gather its energy and end this fair case peacefully. Of course, this will happen with the establishment of democracies in Islamic countries. If democracy is not established in Islamic countries, there will be no positive developments.
How did you reconcile the representatives of the Sunni and Shiite sects in Iraq in 2006?
The incident in Iraq was an incident that happened for the first time in the history of Islam. The Shiite-Sunni affair was more of a matter of political hegemony. But the incident in Iraq was a civil conflict. People killed each other because they were Sunni or Shia. It was said that Saddam oppressed the Shiites by favoring the Sunnis. However, Saddam oppressed Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkmens, everybody. In other words, he did not persecute them because they were Shiites, he did it because they were against him. The internal turmoil was so bad that it got to the point where Sunni and Shiite families began to split. These came to the point of 'You are a Sunni, you are a Shiite, I cannot stay married to you' as if you were in another religion. Terrible things happened. Mosques were separated, graves were blown up.
It was vital to find a solution. We did this by conducting silent diplomacy. For this, we needed to convince the religious leaders first, which we did. When the religious leaders were convinced, the politicians had no excuses.
Then, I formed a committee and sent it to Iraq. I did this under the umbrella of the international academy of fiqh, affiliated with the organization, in order to get them to agree on a basic text after long discussions with Sunni and Shiite religious leaders. And I invited 15 people chosen by them from both sides to Jeddah to the OIC headquarters. They even did not want to be on the same plane from Baghdad to Jeddah, they did not want to get on the same cars when they landed. Anyway, everyone accepted the text we prepared on the negotiations that lasted for several days in Jeddah. In our hands, we had a text quoting the verses of Qur'an that forbids fighting and bloodshed on human relations, and expresses tolerance. We announced this text at midnight in the presence of Beytullah in Makkah-iMükarreme on the Night of Kadir. It was broadcast on television all over the world.
Consequently, this event led to a relief in Baghdad and all the cities of Iraq. Thereupon, I went to visit Iraq with the committee. And Sunni and Shiite leaders, who refused to take the same plane a while ago, met me at the airport together. It was very good and the politicians could not use this issue as an excuse anymore. Because religious committees and authorities came to an agreement as a result of our mediation efforts, and a text called 'Mecca Understanding and Document' emerged. They distributed that document everywhere. This was very important and it gave rise to a glimmer of hope in the Islamic world. This was received very positively in Turkey, too.