The year of Kazakhstan’s OSCE chairmanship successfully draws to a close, and Kazakhstan will chair the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) next year. Our country as an acknowledged integrator in the global community is expected to obtain significant results in its new position, firstly in promoting the dialogue among civilizations.
Principles are unaltered
The main principles of international activities of our republic remain unaltered since the beginning of the independence. Integration process has always been and remains to be a priority direction of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy. Based on the context of the challenges facing our country, it is obvious that the RoK chairing the CFM OIC will work on a few main directions. Firstly it is work for a higher level of understanding and interaction between the Islamic states and the rest of the world, secondly – for Muslim states’ consolidation and more cooperation in economy, ecology, humanitarian problems in the OIC frames, and for the OIC higher status as an international institute of integration, for its lasting cooperation with CICA, OSCE, SCO and other structures.
Born in Rabat
Although Kazakhstan joined the OIC in 1995, the activity of this organization is not better known in our country. Meanwhile, the OIC is the largest and most influential Muslim international organization with 57 member-states of around 1,2bn population. It was founded in 1969 at the Muslim states’ leaders Conference in Rabat for the “Islamic solidarity in social, economic and political areas, for fighting colonialism, neocolonialism and racism and for support of Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)”. The headquarters of the OIC are in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia). With the collapse of the world colonial system the organization’s tasks and aims have considerably changed.
As mentioned already interaction with the Islamic world is among RK foreign political priorities. The Islamic world in its turn considers Kazakhstan as an integral part of the Muslim community.
Representatives of the Republic take part in all major activities of the OIC, such as summits, as well as annual foreign ministers’ coordination conferences during the UN General Assembly session. The OIC supported the initiative of Kazakhstan to establish inter-faith dialogue by convening the Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.
The interaction with the Islamic Development Bank and other financial and consulting companies has particular importance. A number of major projects in our country were implemented with the help of these companies.
Close cooperation with the Islamic Organization on education, science and culture (ISESCO) helps our country to implement such national projects as the preservation and restoration of cultural heritage, exchange of experience in the field of learning and teaching languages, history and culture of Islamic countries.
Note that on the OIC Extraordinary Summit, held on 7-8 December 2005 in Mecca – a holy town to Muslims, a 10-year action plan of the organization was adopted. On the proposal of Kazakhstan, it includes provisions on the need for political, economic and financial support to the states in ecology, as well as promoting and enhancing inter-faith dialogue within the frame of the dialogue of civilizations.
Already a year after in the 33rd CFM OIC session in Baku a resolution on assistance to the region of the former Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and the Aral Sea has been unanimously approved, as well as the initiative of the Head of our State on convening the II Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions was supported.
Unfortunately, in the West many people often refuse to understand the realities of the Muslim world. An illustrative example to it is the recent tensions around an American pastor’s pledge to publicly burn Koran on 11 September. This plan widely reported in the international media caused a storm of anger among Muslims. Moreover the the American leadership was just coaxing (!) this provocateur not to commit the auto-da-fe.
The same is true of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad drawn by a Dutchman. And also the attempts were taken to explain this fact by the Western understanding of freedom of speech. Naturally, many things in the western and eastern mentality are different, including understanding of freedom of speech. But it seems that it is time to negotiate on the top level about the things that cannot be done under any circumstances.
Taking into account that there are not so many fundamental prohibitions, and nothing would happen to human rights with the legislature forbidding mockery of a different faith and its symbols. Human rights, they say end where another individual’s rights start. Perhaps a special convention should be signed by the international community for it. And since the majority of civilized countries adopted the absolute priority of international norms over national, then this issue will be removed.
Our country has an understanding of the internal problems of the Islamic world, related in the first place to faith. The OIC members are in need of a well-coordinated long-term policy for rooting out the deeply seated image of Islam in the West as an aggressive religion. Enlightened Islam must be fostered by the Muslim states (as practiced in the secular Kazakhstan), open to the achievements of science, engineering and culture.
The OIC members’ duty is to disclose to the world a big potential of humanism, morality, spirituality and creation underlying genuine Islam. It is necessary to fight the pseudo-Islam doctrines calling for self-isolation and violence to attain the goal.
In this connection presentation of former Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev at OIC 10th CFM summit comes to mind, in which he said the Organization was but partly justifying the hopes put on it, for all the positive points in it. Its work, he said, should be politically more sensitive and flexible to reality.
For the first time from the podium of such a high level it was said that “after the well-known events in US, Afghanistan and Iraq the world had split into opposing camps nations and peoples divided into friends and foes. Inadequate perception of Islam still holding on in some parts of the world, breeds mutual mistrust. Now that the world is facing threat of international terrorism and extremism, these invisible walls spawn intolerance”.
These words were heard by the participants. Thus, the Malaysian national news agency BERNAMA, noted that “Kazakhstan offers to defend Islam from the isolation and mistrust of the outside world, by initiating interaction and dialogue with other religions”.
Priorities of chairmanship
In his presentation at the 37th session of the CFM OIC in Dushanbe the RK state secretary and foreign minister Kanat Saudabayev listed main priorities of our country for the period of chairmanship in 2011. He said in particular that the elapsed decade had been the time of trial to Islamic world that had become the target for destructive forces. The outcomes of this destructive policy are apparent: wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan, stagnation in the Middle-East settlement process, internal conflicts, growth of anti-Islamic sentiments…
-We should respond to these challenges by creation of a new paradigm of security, based on mutual respect and mutual understanding, -Kanat Saudabayev said. The Islamic ummah should actively participate in resolving the most acute problems of our time, asserting its interests in the emerging new world order of the XXI century.
According to him the main priorities in Kazakhstan’s foreign policy are averting emergence of new dividing lines, development of multiple views and partnership, international cooperation in countering threats and promoting dialogue among civilizations.
-The OIC needs to adopt a program for financial-economic assistance to less developed Central Asia countries, -the state secretary noted.
Central Asia, K. Saudabayev said has an important geo-strategic position and is rich in natural resources, which makes it a most important zone of the modern world politics, on whose stability the global stability depends.
The potential security risks to the region associated with the unstable situation in Afghanistan to a large extent.
- Although the military operation led by the international coalition forces against the Taliban has led to a noticeable reduction in direct terroristic threat to Central Asia, today it is obvious that there is no military solution to the Afghan problem, - emphasized the head of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry.
- Now Afghanistan is in need of assistance in transferring a society from the armed confrontation to the “creative rails”.
Another important aspect of the OIC activity is the establishment of its full cooperation with the OSCE. K.Saudabayev emphasized that the current chairmanship of Kazakhstan - the first time in history when the organization is headed by a state with a predominantly Muslim population.
- Today I stand before you as the current Chairman of this prestigious international organization - the head of the MFA said. - The activities of the Personal Representative of the Chairman on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims show our special attention in the OSCE to the issues of Islamophobia and the oppression against Muslims. And a quite logical step in this connection could be OIC’s accession to CICA (as an observer), because the topical issues of security and confidence-building measures on the continent are discussed within the framework of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia.
According to the observers, Kazakhstan as the founder of CICA, ex-chair of the OSCE and OIC chair in the next year Kazakhstan could considerably further a system interaction between these structures.
Most experts, assessing the prospects for the chairmanship, believe that the Republic with its inherent commitment to cooperation will bring the spirit of high tolerance to the OIC, desire to bring closer the positions of East and West, to increase the level of dialogue between civilizations and religions.