Can Islamic Countries Manage Security Issues?

March 24, 2015 - The Journal of Turkish Weekly

Selçuk Çolakoğlu

Islamic countries face huge security issues at the time being. Besides the traditional security issues at the border and land disputes that are also faced by other countries, Islamic countries face non-traditional security problems, such as terrorism, drug trafficking and human trafficking. All these security problems Islamic countries face were discussed in the 6th Think Tanks Forum of Islamic Countries, which was held on 6-7 March 2015, in Islamabad, Pakistan. The main theme of the conference was ‘Addressing Multi-Dimensional Security Challenges.’ The forum was organized by five organizations: the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Pakistan Senate Defence Committee, the Pakistan-China Institute, the Turkish-Asian Centre for Strategic Studies (TASAM), and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. In the forum, Pakistan President H.E. Mamnoon Hussain, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Mr. Sartaj Aziz, and Pakistani Senate Chairman Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari made the keynote speech in various sessions.

Diversity of Islamic Countries

The 57-membered Organization of Islamic Conference primarily consists of countries with a majority Muslim population. Muslims live not only in these 57 countries but also spread throughout the world. The number of Muslims living in India, Russia and China is more than the population of most Islamic countries. The majority of Muslim countries are categorized as developing or under developed southern countries. Although there are Muslims in Europe and South America, the majority of Muslim countries are situated in Asia and Africa, and there are huge differences in their cultural, economic and political features. In this respect, it is very difficult to talk about one monolithic Islamic world.

Although Turkey, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, as members of G20, are prominent countries in the world in terms of economy, most Muslim countries have serious developmental problems. Despite the Muslim countries that are rich in oil and gas, industrialized and developed Islamic countries (such as Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia) that have reached great achievements is extremely small in number. In this sense, insufficient development, injustice in income distribution, unemployment, unqualified labour, regional disparities, as well as insufficient health and education services display that Muslim countries have huge structural economic problems.

Management of Security Issues

In addition to economic problems, Muslim countries face many serious security risks. The main issues are border problems, territorial disputes and minority issues between neighbouring countries. In addition, as the overwhelming majority of Muslim countries have colonial pasts, the serious problems related to state-building and national reconciliation still exist.  Due to the insufficiency of the state capacity, the Muslim countries experience serious insecurity. Many countries have no capacity to carry out the necessary fight against illicit networks and terrorist organizations. It is easy for criminal organizations and radical groups to gain a base of large masses of people because of the poor living conditions in Muslim countries. Thus, economic problems and insufficient development become obstacles to the development of the state capacity and the provision of security.

Under these circumstances it is difficult for Muslim countries to develop joint solutions to security problems. However, the awareness necessary for Muslim countries to cooperate on common security issues is growing. In particular, there is a serious concern about the spread of religious extremism and radical organizations in the Islamic world. There is a common approach that these kinds of radical religious movements use, and it destabilizes the countries where they operate and paves the way for terrorism. First among the issues to be addressed, there is widespread movement of radical religious terrorist organizations towards the center of the Islamic world from the periphery. However, in terms of methods of combating these movements, Islamic countries have not found an effective solution for these extremists and radical groups. It is obvious that some countries, by themselves, do not have the capacity to fight with such radical groups. Ultimately, long-term strategies should be developed considering the rising radicalism and developmental issues. For this purpose, the generally accepted idea is that Islamic countries must act in close cooperation with other Islamic countries as well as with major powers and international organizations.

China is seen as an important partner in terms of solving the enormous development problems of Islamic countries. China is able to build stronger partnerships with Muslim countries due to its announcement of the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) project, which is covered by a $40 billion infrastructure fund. China has also played a significant, positive role in the development of African countries. Islamic countries consider Japan and South Korea as significant partners in economic development, too. The idea to cooperate with the US, Russia and European countries is gaining weight and importance in terms of helping manage the security issues of Islamic countries, namely fighting against international terrorist organizations. Thus, it is not a fortuitous circumstance that the 6th Think Tanks Forum of Islamic Countries has decided, in the period ahead, to invite think tanks from outside of the Islamic world, and to adopt a common strategy on security issues. In the upcoming period the Islamic countries can be expected to take a more active role in multilateral cooperation for security.