It was 2007. A very exciting project for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was being conducted. The organization was going to be transformed into a powerful foundation and contribute to the Muslim world with a 10-year reform project. Then-president of the think tank, Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), İbrahim Kalın, was involved in the project on behalf of Turkey. He called me and talked about the project and told me that they were looking for a media advisor for the OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, and asked if I would be interested. I told him I would be happy to think about it.
I prepared a communications project for the OIC. I prepared a very comprehensive project that had information offices throughout the world, films, television projects, and online newspapers. I went to meet İhsanoğlu and present my project. I enthusiastically explained the entire project.
He picked up the project, turned a few pages and said, “This project is too big for us. I wonder if you can arrange for me to be interviewed by Doğan Media Group?” All my enthusiasm suddenly turned to disappointment. I said, “You have the status of a president, I am talking about The New York Times and CNN, what is the Doğan Group?” The meeting ended. İhsanoğlu hired someone from the Doğan Group as his media advisor.
The OIC reform experience failed
As might be expected, the 10-year reform package was not actualized as expected. İhsanoğlu supported the execution of the reform package, yet the balances he wanted to create among the countries, the personal plans and the vision issue prevented the OIC from growing. This lethargy increased further with the secretary-general that came after him, and the organization turned into an almost dead structure with the Syrian war.
A secretary-general obviously cannot expand an organization by himself. However, he can at least institutionalize the organization and turn it into a powerful management structure.
The issue that cannot be discussed because of biases
OIC member countries uniting and founding powerful relations is a dream for many people. This is what I understand from the reactions I got for my last article.
On the other hand I saw that, discussing the OIC or Muslim unity could not be possible due to biases and conditional points of view. The issue gets into a deadlock when there are emotional discussions on “betrayal, ignorance, poverty, sects.”
Those who believe this dream would not come true, always see the glass half empty and spread their pessimistic ideas.
I see that there aren't many people making cold-blooded evaluations in terms of realpolitik. Yes, Muslim countries are poor, they cannot produce because their economies are underdeveloped, and they are dependent on the West. Looking at these conditions and saying that a partnership cannot be established is not a real politic attitude.
The OIC has 57 member countries. It is estimated that their total population is 1.8 billion. This makes up 27 percent of the world's population. Even this shows that this is an economically big market. Only 16 percent of their foreign trade is with OIC members. The rest is with other countries.
These countries combined have an economic share of 7.2 percent, lower than Germany's rate of 8.2 percent alone. The total trade volume is $3.3 trillion, which is also a low figure. When evaluated as statistical value, most of these values are negative. Yet, when you realize that most are developing countries, and have suffered from invasion and colonization, then you realize that a different sort of energy is bound to come out.
The most important strength of the Muslim countries
There are 19 countries that have oil and natural gas, and have the ability to affect the world energy market. When underground mines, natural riches and geopolitical privileges are added, it seems that the situation will change. I will not even mention the political side to the issue. Muslim countries have to show the will to solve their own problems. Everyone has clearly understood this with the wars and terror we have experienced in the past five years.
The issue is whether there are politicians and people who believe that this Muslim unification can be established. Even a secretary-general that believes in this can create a change. Late politician Necmettin Erbakan, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu have taken solid steps toward this issue. The D8 project, even if not to the extent desired, showed us why this project was important in terms of real economic-politics. The trade volumes of eight countries increased by eightfold.
I do not believe that those who claim that establishing good relations with Muslim countries means to close the doors on the West have good intentions. The volume of the West's trade with Muslim countries is more than their trade with Turkey. They will produce any kind of argument so they do not lose their market share.
Let's not forget that Turkey is the OIC's biggest country, natural leader and older brother. For this reason, Turkey needs to take a leading role in reviving the unity and strengthening it.