Speech of

H.E. Dr. ABDELOUAHED BELKZIZ the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference at the Twenty-Ninth Session of the Islamic Conference of Foregin Ministers

Khartoum, 25 June 2002

Your Excellency Omar Hasan Ahmed Al-Bashir,

President of the Republic of the Sudan;

Your Excellencies the Ministers;

Your Excellencies;

Distinguished Delegates,

I have the honor to welcome you all at the opening of the proceedings of the 29th session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers being held, this time, in Khartoum, the beautiful capital city of Sudan.

Allow me, first of all, to express my deep appreciation and gratitude to the Government of the Republic of the Sudan for graciously hosting the present session and for the great efforts it exerted to prepare and pave the way to our Conference to take place with the best possible facilities. I am equally thankful and fully appreciative of the sincerely warm welcome and traditional hospitality extended to all of us by the fraternal people and government of this country under the leadership of His Excellency Omar Hasan Ahmed Al-Bashir who is gracing us with his presence at this opening ceremony. We price this gesture on His Excellency’s part, pay tribute to his acumen and foresight, same as we hereby laud and regard as a good augury his very achievements in terms of his endeavors towards national unity and advancement of his country by way of development and reconstruction projects that have enhanced Sudan’s prestige in the community of nations, thereby constituted a major gain, not only for the Sudan, but for the Islamic Ummah as a whole.

The valuable speech which His Excellency just delivered here, reflecting many of his perspicacious views about the state of Islam and Muslims in the world today, deserves a pause, on our part, to ponder over the meanings it contained and derive from them the examples and lessons that call our attention. Aren’t we all consecrating our efforts in favor of our Ummah, its welfare, dignity and fortitude? That speech shall, no doubt, greatly inspire our deliberations as we consider the agenda items.

I feel duty-bound, at this juncture, to express thanks, commendation and utmost appreciation to His Excellency the Foreign Minister of Mali and Chairman of the 28th ICFM for the valuable and consistent efforts he exerted during his Chairmanship of that Session and for his sincere and honest commitment with which he shouldered the formidable task entrusted to him.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since our last session in Bamako, Republic of Mali, unexpected momentous events took place worldwide, prompting the unfolding rapid chain of events in the international arena, upsetting many a balance, overturning plenty of traditional concepts and bringing about several complex and difficult challenges.

Over the past ten months or so, the Islamic world has been at the heart of events – the target of fierce criticism, injuries, calumnies as well as misleading propaganda campaigns designed to bend and deform the facts and the truth.

The same period witnessed an exacerbation and escalation of the valiant Palestinian Intifadha to coincide with the growing ferocity of the bloody Israeli practices against the Palestinian people.

No one ignores the events of last September 11th, but their negative repercussions on the Islamic world continue unabated and more and more widespread. We unceasingly hear the word “terrorism”, constantly beamed to and resounding in our ears, every hour, every minute, at each and every forum, purported by the media. As a result of such campaigns, the word “Islam” has, regrettably, in the mind of many people, become synonymous with terrorism, same as Muslims, wherever they may be, are persistently the object of hatred, uneasiness and apprehensions.

There was a time when, in the West, Muslims were characterized as poor and ignorant, having no democracy and disregarding human rights. Added to those, nowadays, is the accusation of belonging to a backward civilization in a culture “glorifying death” – in other words, a “terrorist culture!”

With that and due to other factors, it is feared that Muslims may lose the confidence they had in their ingenuity and civilization as well as their distinguished and essential contributions in building modern civilization. While many people view the Islamic world as one heading for isolation on the international scene, Muslims themselves, feel frustrated and incapacitated.

Faced with such a reality, one can only realize that the challenges poised to the Islamic world are as momentous as unprecedented. Never have Muslims come to grips with similar challenges. These are malicious and extremely complex, intricate and difficult challenges, hence requiring exceptional efforts as well as well-pondered and astute measures to stem such a tide.

The Islamic world is still proceeding along divergent and scattered diversity, whereas it has become indispensable for it to use its ingenuity, prepare a comprehensive and integrated study – a minute scrutiny of its state of affairs worldwide – and lay the groundwork of a single, combined approach as to the ways and means to deal with the rationale of our contemporary era and the very powers that, in our day, control the progress of human history.

It has, similarly, become a must for the Islamic world to relinquish the old and obsolete methods of conducting its own affairs, the ones that proved ineffective. In fact, it is no longer possible to confine ourselves to inaction, slowness, reticence, abstention from making any move, or adopt a wait and see attitude, while the world around us is so vibrant and full of activity and relentless future planning.

But what may make it easier for us to face those challenges is the fact that most of them are founded on baseless, malicious, untrue accusations not so difficult to uncover, dispel and expose with their misleading objectives, which does not mean, for as much, that we should not recognize our true defects or shortcomings, as the case may be, rectify them and avoid their recurrence.

We must listen to contemporary world discourse so as to accommodate which is beneficial to us and keep abreast of the unstoppable march of the humankind. In fact, no one can go against the inexorable tide of history. Nor should we, as we try to catch up with that procession, give up the unshakeable foundations of our Muslim creed and Islamic civilization. What helps us in this drive is that Islam is the religion of flexibility and facilitation, rather than rigidity, of development and endeavor. It has it, as a basic principle, that the evolutions in rulings as times go by ought not to be denied. Century after century, Islam demonstrated an amazing flexibility in espousing development, in the transition from tribal to urban society and in matching the trends of those civilizations and cultures in line with its tenets, without forasmuch indulging in anything, or making the least inconsiderate concession. Muslims, nowadays, are accused of standing against or being hostile to modern civilization with its foundations of democracy, rational governance, the rule of law, human rights, popular participation, accountability, public freedoms and others. All those principles are, and have always been, part and parcel of our glorious and tolerant Shari’a. In other words, it is incumbent upon Islamic States to have a universal convention of action or “Global Agenda” to clearly show where they stand in our contemporary world along with their stance towards the great challenges this Globe is facing in the framework of the current “unipolar” World Order and where the smear, spiteful anti-Islamic campaigns do nothing but grow. Our countries should embark upon this path in a bid to remedy such a situation, thereby safeguarding the interests of Islam and ensure their place in the tenacious forward steps of the humankind.

To be able to evolve such an Islamic program, it is imperative for us to have, first of all, a combined political will for general mobilization with a view to putting an end to our scattered intellectual trends and tendencies and our discordent voice which may only lead us to marginalization and further weakness. We must undertake a genuine, serious and well-studied action proceeding from courageous thinking and an all embracing vision of the tasks lying ahead of us to get into the present global mainstream and to appropriately integrate into the global economy in order to join the fast current contemporary civilization. Such a goal, however, can be reached only through genuine, aiming, collective action. We must be equipped with the capability and inner, undeniable drive to respect and abide by what we decide upon in the form of resolutions and recommendations, besides implementing and turning into action the agreements we conclude and sign.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Some of the most important current issues that make it incumbent upon us to coordinate our efforts as to the ways and means to deal with them include those pertaining to terrorism, globalization and the Palestinian cause, which is in the forefront of all problems.

Failure on the part of the international community to define the concept of “terrorism”, leaving that term open for diverse interpretations only serves the interests of many a party hostile to Islam that, as was recently witnessed, left no stone unturned to let this word be as extensible as possible. Their objective, of course, is to have this expression encompass all that serves their special objectives and narrow interests.

We have aligned our stances on terrorism at two extraordinary conferences held for this purpose. The first was convened, on October 10, 2001, in Doha, in the wake of the September 11 events, at the gracious invitation of His Highness the Emir of the State of Qatar Sheikh Hamad ibn Khalifa Al-Thani, to discuss developments of the war in Afghanistan. That conference offered us a great opportunity to define our attitude towards terrorism and proclaim our support to the international campaign against it, provided it targets those whose involvement in the terrorist acts would be proved, not the Afghan people as a whole. We clearly affirmed at that conference that we regarded national resistance activities to get rid of foreign occupation and obtain self-determination, based on international legitimacy and U.N. Security Council resolutions as legitimate acts that can, in no way, be considered terrorism. At the same time, we made it a point to voice our categorical rejection of expanding the war in Afghanistan to engulf other Islamic States.

The second extraordinary conference took place in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, on April 01, 2002, at the invitation of its Prime Minister Dato Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed. It reaffirmed what had been agreed upon at the Doha conference and called for dealing with and remedying the real reasons underlying terrorism, holding an international conference under U.N. auspices to formulate an internationally agreed definition of terrorism and a joint organized response of the international community to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and establish a ministerial committee on international terrorism, besides constantly endeavoring to maintain a common front as for the legitimacy of the struggle of people subjected to colonialism or alien domination, or foreign occupation, for national liberation and self-determination. Our present meeting may offer an opportunity to finalize the formation of its members by naming the States involved.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We held yet another extraordinary meeting in Doha, on December 10, 2001, at the invitation of His Highness Sheikh Hamad ibn Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar, to discuss the grave situation obtaining all over the Palestinian territories. There, we adopted a number of stances. However, the rapid chain of events unfolding in Palestine, the enormity of the Israeli excesses, Israel’s failures to comply with the U.N. Security Council resolutions and other demands of the international community left the situation in Palestine more than ever prone to various kinds of problems and crises. We have seen how, after the preliminary victories scored by the latest Intifadha, the events of September 11th last reflected negatively on the Palestinian national struggle, making it easy for Zionist circles to mar the image of that struggle until it relegated it to the level of “terrorism.” Despite international sympathy with the Palestinian people that reached its apex on the heels of Israel’s incursions and overrunning of West Bank erritories, with all the massacres that were committed and are still being carried out in the process, which owed Israel and its politicians the accusation of perpetrating war crimes, Israel managed to evade a fair international probe of what it committed in the refugee camp in Jenin, after the United Nations decided and approved such an inquiry upon the request, with insistence, on the part of the UN Security Council and the OIC.

Furthermore, Israel later succeeded, while deflecting world public opinion from all its illegitimate excesses and the unprecedented havoc it wreaked through its devastating campaigns and State terrorism on record in which it indulges, to impose, in the international arena, what it calls today the necessity to reform the Palestinian National Authority.

Hope is pinned today on the success of the endeavors being made to promote the widely accepted initiative of HRH Prince Abdullah ibn Abdul Aziz to be placed on the track of practical implementation, now that it has been endorsed on the Arab plane and met with a great positive response at both the Islamic and international levels. One reason for confidence is that the new American discourse and the European and international positions are unanimous as to the inevitable establishment of an independent viable Palestinian State in the Palestinian territories. That position was backed by the Security Council by virtue of the important resolutions it recently adopted, namely 1397, 1402 and 1403.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Whoever reviews the general condition of the Islamic world during a year’s time would realize what I just mentioned, namely that the situation therein experienced nothing less than tremors, foremost among which was what happened in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan paid an exorbitant price in lives and properties during the raids on its territories when forces of the international coalition, with the help of certain Afghan parties, managed to crush the Taleban regime and paralyzed Al-Qaeda organization. Then an interim government was set up to run the affairs of the State on a caretaker basis until the Loya Jirga met – the traditional tribal parliament – and gave a chance to the representatives of the Afghan society to partake in running the affairs of the country. The meeting of the Loya Jirga elected a President of the interim administration and named a Cabinet for the political and economic reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan, and contribute towards the consolidation of security and stability in that part of the world.

We hope that international financial aid for rehabilitation and reconstruction projects shall be pursued, as was decided at the donor countries’ conference in Tokyo and that the culture of war as well as ethnic and tribal strife shall be brought to an end for that country to enjoy calm and certainty and devote its efforts to the coming battle of development. I appeal to you, in this context, to extend your generous contributions to the Fund set up by the OIC during the extraordinary conference in Doha to assist the Afghan people by alleviating the sufferings they have endured and rebuilding their country.

The continuing tensions in Jammu and Kashmir are so high that Pakistan and India are on the verge of a devastating nuclear conflagration. The OIC appealed to the two neighboring States to exercise self-restraint and abide by the Security Council resolutions providing for a settlement of the dispute through a referendum on self-determination whereby the Kashmiri people would have the final say on their political future. The General Secretariat issued a statement expressing its deep and extreme concern over the tensions between the two neighbouring countries and offered its mediation and good offices to defuse the situation and pave the way for dialogue between the two sides.

As for the situation in Somalia, it is still the cause of deep preoccupations and giving rise to lot of fears as the provisional government is still unable to spread its influence quite adequately while military confrontations among the warring factions which refuse to recognize the provisional government continue unabated. There are apprehensions that the state of continuous laxity may increase the chances of foreign intervention in that country’s internal affairs, thereby exposing its territorial integrity to a real and perpetual danger, especially in the light of the failed mediation attempts between the conflicting parties.

On the other hand, there is no noticeable progress in Armenia’s response to implement the Security Council decisions regarding the withdrawal of its troops from the territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the area of Nagorno-Karabakh.

As for Chechnya, the Muslim people of that country are still suffering greatly from the years-long harsh coercive emergency measures imposed on it, the difficult conditions resulting from marginalization, as well as obvious human right violations. It is high time for a dialogue with the true representatives of the people of Chechnya in a bid to reach such a resolution as would alleviate those people’s suffering and lead to the recognition of their specificities and identity.

Meanwhile, amid those crises and problems afflicting the Islamic Ummah, causing us to inevitably react with sympathy and compassion towards their victims, there is a good augury and room for optimism as we see some warmth returning to the situation between Iraq and Kuwait, thanks to the efforts deployed by the countries of the region, primarily the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, particularly during the Arab Summit Conference held in Beirut. We hope for the continuation of such a positive development conducive to a resolution of all the pending problems, especially the issue of the detainees, prisoners and missing persons, in a way as to ensure respect for Kuwait’s sovereignty and ward off the foreign threats of a strike against Iraq while preserving the latter’s territorial integrity and lifting the embargo imposed on it.

One reason for satisfaction is the now stable security situation in the Balkans and the fact that the Fund for the Return of Refugees and Displaced Persons for Bosnia and Herzegovina to their homes and hearth and preserve the Islamic identity of the Muslim community there, has gone into action. Allow me, in this respect to express my thanks and gratitude to those member states having made financial contributions in favor of that Fund.

In the same vein of optimism, I would like to refer to the positive development in Sierra Leone where the long-awaited legislative elections, since the end of the painful period of rebellion, have finally taken place. They marked the start of a new era of rehabilitation and reconstruction. The OIC had a share – a part it played in the phases that culminated such a settlement. It remains that we must honor what we promised to our brethren in Sierra Leone, in terms of the assistance and contributions pledged to the Reconstruction Fund set up by the Organization for the purpose.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Concerning the Economy, the latest statistics of the OIC Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation (COMCEC) proved, once again, that the development rate in the majority of our members remained below the overall ratio in the other developing nations. It doesn’t need a person to be a highly qualified economic expert to realize that the world today has become a global community where there is no room whatsoever for individual economy, nor is there a single State that can claim to be able to live in a vacuum, away from what happens in the rest of the world, or face up individually to the challenges of our time without sheltering itself under the banner of one of the major groupings just to enjoy minimal economic protection, let its voice be heard and reap some of the benefits of economic integration. The rich countries that now have a strong foothold making them affluent in controlling the Economy came to that conclusion long ago. We have seen them erecting the major economic strongholds or bastions in Europe where the European Union (EU) came into existence, in North America with the emergence of the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA), in Asia where the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established, and elsewhere.

Despite the repeated calls, urging the States of the Islamic world to combine their economic efforts and act collectively and in spite of the plans of action adopted by the OIC to strengthen economic and commercial cooperation among member states as well as the numerous Agreements and Statutes worked out under OIC auspices and the preliminary studies produced to create an Islamic Common Market, it is the unilateral outlook that continues to govern the way with which most of the States of the Islamic world are dealing with the economic challenge. The inevitable result is for our countries to be bogged down in their present position. It can still be argued, however, that the free trade agreements concluded between certain Islamic States, do form a nucleous that could grow into an Islamic Common Market if the other Islamic States were to follow suit.

In the meantime, the Islamic Group at the World Trade Organization (WTO) should coordinate their efforts and positions when the issue of the “developmental dimension” is incorporated in that Organization’s expanded Agenda. It would also be beneficial if all the Member States seek to join the world organization in question so that the Islamic world may have its say – that would be heard – therein.

To conclude this chapter, I should like to express my satisfaction over the laudable efforts carried out by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to develop the economy of the member states. No doubt that the approval given by the 9th Islamic Summit Conference to raise the Bank’s capital considerably, coupled with the practical measures taken to turn such an increase into reality will have a great impact on the development and diversification of the activities of that institution in the best interest of the member states’ economies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As for culture, nobody can lose sight of the utmost importance of Culture as a most solid bond, holding together all members of the Islamic Ummah and unifying their joint visions. It also fosters in them the sense of belonging to a single true religion and helps them gather around and stick to joint concepts concerning life, the Creation, existence, and the Universe. There is no doubt that any activity aimed at cementing such bonds and consolidating the elements of such a cohesion can only serve the interests of Muslims and the steadfastness of their ranks, especially at a time when the “globalization” phenomenon engenders grave threats to the cultures of many a people with disintegration and extinction in favor of a materialistic culture that believes only in the values of making quick profits. Consequently, it is heartwarming to see that action has already started in the implementation of the Cultural Strategy for the Islamic World and its action program. We hope that the process thus addressed would reach its aims as planned.

Let us thank Allah as well that the culture of dialogue among civilizations which we took the initiative to raise and apply at international forums has, with the grace of the Almighty, prevailed over the idea of the clash of civilizations. Its concepts have taken their roots and made their way into the milieux of politicians, elite intellectuals and decision-makers worldwide, which, in itself, is an achievement to be placed on record for praising all those who helped to give it prominence foremost among whom was His Excellency President Syed Mohammad Khatami, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I would like, in this respect, to underscore the great and valuable efforts exerted by ISESCO in the area of dialogue among civilizations as well as the successful initiatives and activities taken by Dr. Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, at this level.

On the other hand, the convening of the joint OIC-EU Forum, in Istanbul, Turkey, last March, has been a cultural and historic event by all standards as it consecrated the first Islamic-European dialogue for the purposes of understanding, familiarization and bringing together views, as well as rejection of preconceived stereotyping, highlighting of the numerous cultural common denominators and consideration of major contemporary political problems. That Forum was attended by all EU and OIC Foreign Ministers. Our European counterparts have been very diligent in their preparation of that meeting, same as they showed a noticeable interest in its cultural, political and practical significance. The sessions were pervaded by an atmosphere of positive optimism that was, indeed, reflected in the statement that was released on the forum. The latter dwelt on the two Organizations’ common responsibility to work for the consolidation of solidarity between the countries of the two groups, evasion of racism, religious and cultural intolerance to rather foster the joint human values, primarily human rights. It was also stated in the communique that cultural diversity was a positive mosaic integration pattern and that the harmonization of cultures was an objective worthy of active enthusiasm. It called for continuing the use of bilateral and multilateral means towards the fulfillment of common objectives.

That was an encouraging start upon which we should build bridges of further acquaintance and familiarization between the two civilizations, as a practical embodiment of what we are calling for in terms of dialogue among civilizations, hoping that such a mode of communication would be repeated in the future and that a mechanism would be created for the continuation of dialogue, consultation and exchange of views, as well as solve emerging problems that may arise. Meanwhile, I propose to your august meeting to approve the opening of an OIC Office in Brussels, center of the European Union, in view of the increasing urgent need for communication with the EU which will become, very soon, the biggest economic bloc in the world, and whose political role will have a great impact on world issues of direct interest to us.

But action to re-establish the true image of Islam in the world, following the campaigns of deliberate distortion and slander, I already referred to, requires us to keep exerting a sustained effort with no respite through campaigns of sensitization and awareness to be launched at multiple levels internationally by professional experts in the various fields. The aim would be for such campaigns to reach the official decision-makers, leaders of the civil society as well as the major media of all types known for their impact and the intelligentsia, including scholars and universities and other educational establishments to present the bright image of Islam in a language understandable to their respective cultures, concepts and mentalities and shed light on the Islamic culture and its great contributions to the enrichment of modern civilization. Also to be highlighted is Islam’s relations with the coexisting cultures over the ages, in addition to expounding the just causes of Muslims.

In this respect, I appeal to all Islamic countries, each according to the scope of its relationships with the outside world, be it the West, Asia or America, to bring in their contributions, individually or collectively, into this good effort, by getting in touch with the cultural or academic centers and institutes in those countries and the media therein, at various levels, and with the leaders of civil society and other official or popular decision-makers, to arrange for fora, symposia or visits, regularly and continuously. The purpose, of course, would be to explain or elaborate on what I just mentioned about Islam and its tolerance and enlighten world public opinion about the sublime principles constituting the foundations on which our civilization is resting and dwell on the justice of our causes. The OIC General Secretariat would gladly be in charge of the coordination process in this connection for the collective effort to be integrated and with a view to discharging the historic and cultural duty placed on our shoulders by the international situation.

The OIC organized, last year, an International Symposium on Human Rights in Islam in Geneva, which was attended by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. A number of eminent Muslim scholars and thinkers also participated in the symposium, which created a positive impression in political, diplomatic, and academic circles in Central Europe. That symposium was preceded by another one, which was held in Sophia, Bulgaria, and addressed the issues of Muslim communities in Eastern Europe. A number of distinguished scholars and politicians from the Balkans also took part in this symposium. In this regard, the OIC still attaches special attention to the issues of Muslim communities and minorities in non-OIC member states with a view to developing ties between them and the Islamic world as well as helping them preserve their Islamic culture and identity while respecting the sovereignty and laws of their host States. For example, the OIC has a fundamental and crucial role to play towards the Muslim community in the Mindanao region of Southern Philippines where some ten million Muslims live. In this context, the OIC’s action—and positive contribution through an ad-hoc Islamic committee—led to the signing of the Peace Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1996 to establish an autonomous zone capable of serving the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people. We have great hopes that the signatory parties to that agreement honor their agreed commitments with sincerity, particularly in implementing the economic and social development projects in that region in such a manner as to restore security, stability, and peace there.

In the field of information, it is generally agreed today that modern information has an increasingly major role to play in the elaboration of social values, cultures, and future directions. It is to be noted that there is an evolution in the Islamic information market generally. However, the extent of this activity is almost totally confined to the local Islamic audience without having great impact on the outside world. While the voice and causes of Islam do not reach the external world, the West has a marked information presence in the Islamic world, leading to a strategic imbalance that must be redressed through effective tools, modern technologies, and competent human resources in order to narrow the existing digital and information technology gap. That is why Muslim business men must be motivated to enter the international information markets.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Regarding the restructuring of the General Secretariat, the specialized meetings have continued apace since last year to draw up the Terms of Reference of the Special Study on Restructuring the General Secretariat following the appointment of a Malaysian expert to define the Terms of Reference and the completion by the team comprised of the expert and his assistants of a field study inside the General Secretariat in which interviews were conducted with its directors and staff to collect information and data and assess the effectiveness and productivity of each facility therein as necessary input to determining the context of the Terms of Reference for the study. That was followed by a meeting of the Five-Member Committee comprised of Malaysia, the General Secretariat, the Islamic Development Bank, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in its capacity as the Headquarters State, and the State of Qatar in its capacity as the Chairman of the Ninth Islamic Summit. Thus an exhaustive study was made of the document on “The Terms of Reference of the Study”, which underwent modifications, additions, and deletions. This document will be submitted to the Meeting of the Intergovernmental Experts of the Member States to express their views on the document within the next few months before moving to the second stage of preparing the final study. Thus action is ongoing to implement the desired OIC reform in a practical manner, following a long period of research and discussions which have lasted for many years. We hope that this effort will lead to enhancing the performance of the General Secretariat so as to positively reflect the joint Islamic action which we are all seeking to energize.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a legal entity, the General Secretariat of the Organization of the Islamic Conference fulfills its functions through the human resources that are available to it and that are employed therein. Its effectiveness or otherwise is, therefore, measured against the standards of the human resources at its disposal and the volume and nature of the work entrusted to it. All these requirements are closely bound up with the financial resources available to attract the human resources able to fulfill these functions in an optimal manner. It is common knowledge that the General Secretariat is experiencing a stifling financial crisis while there has been a steady increase in the responsibilities entrusted to it due to developments related to the Islamic world as well as a steady increase in the legitimate demands of the Member States for the General Secretariat to provide top-quality services of a standard comparable to that of international organizations, such as the United Nations and others. What has exacerbated matters is that the funds actually received by the General Secretariat towards its approved—yet meager—budget hardly amount to half that budget. Therefore, it has become imperative that effective, swift, and efficient measures be taken to bring the Member States to honor their financial obligations and settle their accumulated arrears. In this respect, I would like to propose to you that an emergency session be convened during this conference to address this major issue.

On the other hand, let me take this opportunity to pay tribute to the munificent initiative undertaken by the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahd Bin Abdulaziz, may Allah preserve him, in allocating a new provisional headquarters for the General Secretariat although practical measures have been taken to proceed with the building of a new permanent headquarters for the General Secretariat.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In my speech, I wanted to present a candid review of the reality of the Islamic world as it actually stands with critical self-criticism and without insincerity. Having been pushed to the margin of events, having suffered bitter setbacks, and having been isolated, the Islamic world is now faced with one choice and that is to regain confidence in itself, in its ingenious spirit, and in its capacity to recover from setbacks and face the challenges which it confronted fourteen centuries ago to come out with its faith whole and its dignity intact. I do not doubt for one single moment, that it is still capable of rising above this current crisis as it always did in the past when a strong political will prevailed. Perhaps our greatest challenge today is the ever-growing scientific gap that separates us from the developed, industrialized countries, which is what places these scientifically advanced nations in a position where they can control the world’s political and economic destinies and even future prospects. Without a doubt, the modern concept of Knowledge Economy—based on the principle that science is the driving force behind the wheels of economy, progress, prosperity, and leadership—prompts us to make of science a basic priority and to channel our efforts into it with all our determination and resolve.

We must learn from our heritage and our past. We must remember that when we gave in to ignorance in recent times and when we left our scientific and scholarly renaissance behind, we quickly fell into the so-called era of decadence. That is why today we must keep in mind at all times, as we go through this crisis, that Muslims were the masters of the world when they were the masters of thought and science.

Wassalamu Alaikum Warahmatullah Wabarakatuh.