Leaders from across the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) met in Saudi Arabia early Saturday for the 14th session of the Islamic Summit, which follows two emergency Arab meetings the night before in Makkah criticising Iran’s behavior and influence in countries like Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
The Muslim leaders discussed a breadth of critical issues, ranging from a spike in tensions in the Persian Gulf, to Palestinian statehood, the plight of Rohingya refugees and the growing threat of Islamophobia.
Prime Minister Imran Khan was among the leaders who spoke at the summit
The premier started his maiden speech at the OIC by raising the issue of Islamophobia: “When someone from the West blasphemed our Holy Prophet (PBUH), I always felt the response from the Muslim Ummah and OIC was lacking.”
“The OIC — us heads of states — owes a responsibility to the Muslim world […] when somebody blasphemes our Prophet (PBUH), it is a failure of the OIC that we have not been able to explain to the other countries the love and affection we feel for our Holy Prophet,” said Prime Minister Imran.
“Some western countries are suffering from Islamophobia. The West should differentiate between moderate Muslim and extremist Muslim.
“The international community has to respect the feelings of more than 1 billion Muslims,” he added.
“I also want to bring up the point that the Muslim world must pay more attention to science and technology,” the premier urged. “We must pay more attention to quality education and universities; an area in which the Muslim world lags. I fear the Muslim world may be left behind again and this is the best forum to raise this concern in.”
He also touched upon the plight of the people of Kashmir as well as Palestine, saying Pakistan supports the two-states solution and recognising East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.
“The people of Kashmir must also have their right to self determination; us as a body must stand against the oppression happening with the Muslim world.”
Prior to the summit, the premier met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Kingdom’s tensions with Iran
Saudi Arabia’s effort to bring regional leaders to Makkah reflects the Kingdom’s desire to project a unified Muslim and Arab position on Iran to further isolate it internationally and counter Tehran’s growing reach in the Middle East.
The Islamic summit, however, drew political figures and heads of state from countries spanning Africa, the Middle East and Asia with widely varying policies and priorities.
But for the summit’s host, Saudi Arabia, confronting Iran was at the top of the agenda.
“The drone attacks on Saudi oil pumping stations carried by groups supported by Iran do not only threaten the security of the Kingdom and the Gulf but also threaten maritime safety and global oil supplies,” said Saudi King Salman in his inaugural speech at the OIC summit.
He added that the “sabotage” operations against four vessels, which included two Saudi oil tankers near the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates, represent a dangerous threat against maritime safety, as well as regional and international security.
Iran denies involvement in the attacks