Divisions within Muslim world on display at OIC summit

PTI Cairo | Updated on November 20, 2017

The leaders of Muslim countries today offered conflicting approaches to the crises in Mali and Syria, exposing some of the deep divisions that run through the Islamic world.

More than 25 Prime Ministers and Presidents are taking part in a two-day summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Cairo, which brings together leaders from across the Muslim world.

In his opening address to the gathering, Senegalese President Macky Sall commended France for its military intervention in Mali, and said the Muslim world cannot allow “a minority of terrorists to commit crimes, distort our faith and deepen hatred for Islam”.

He was alluding to the Islamist militants who seized control of northern Mali before a French-led force, which includes troops from Senegal, began to roll them back.

The French operation has received broad international support although Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has repeatedly denounced the intervention, saying it threatens to perpetuate instability across the region.

Addressing the summit today, Morsi stopped short of condemning Paris for its actions in Mali, but made clear that Cairo did not support it.

Turning to Syria, Morsi sharply criticised President Bashar Assad’s embattled regime, saying it “must read history and grasp its immortal message: People who... put their personal interests before those of their people will inevitably go.”

The conflict in Syria has been deeply divisive in the Middle-East, pitting a largely Sunni opposition against a regime dominated by Assad’s Alawite minority — a heterodox offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Sunni States such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have thrown their weight behind the rebels, while Shiite heavyweight Iran is Damascus’ closest regional ally.

And, the longest-running and deepest division in the Islamic world — the Sunni-Shiite fault line — was on full display during a meeting on the eve of the summit attended by its highest-profile participant — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.

Sunni-Shiite tensions dominated talks between Ahmadinejad and Egypt’s most prominent cleric, Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb, who warned against Iranian interference in Gulf nations, particularly Bahrain, where the ruling Sunni minority has faced protests by the Shiite majority.

The two-day Islamic summit is organised by the Saudi-based, 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference created in 1969. Syria’s membership has been suspended for its Government’s violent crackdown on the uprising there.

Published on February 07, 2013

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