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New OIC charter could spark
Islamic renaissance

Last weekend's adoption of a new charter for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) which promotes democracy and human rights among member countries could spark what President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has called an Islamic renaissance.

Adopted unanimously, the new charter is set to replace the 1972 version and should speed up OIC decision making processes.

It would also create new institutions for the 57-nation body to promote economic cooperation among member countries.

The charter was adopted during the 11th OIC summit here last weekend after days of intense talks and despite the absence of several prominent leaders, including Saudi's King Abdullah, Malaysia's Abdullah Badawi, Libya's Moammar Qaddafi and Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf.

OIC secretary general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said, "The adoption of the new charter itself is an historic event".

"No summit succeeded in making achievement in the charter.

"Here in Dakar, we have a brand new charter."

Ekmeleddin was speaking at a press conference after the closing of the summit Friday evening (Saturday morning, Jakarta time).

"This new charter expresses the new vision of the Muslim world," he said.

"It gives impetus to the organization and puts the house in a better order.

"Also, it relates to our era."

But to become operational, the charter needs to be ratified by the legislative branch of each country with a two third majority.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the new charter included the principles of democracy, good governance and human rights.

At a briefing with Indonesian media on Friday evening, Yudhoyono said the charter's democratic principles were "extremely sensitive" for some member countries in the Middle East.

"Democracy now becomes an important matter for OIC countries," he said.

"They will adopt democracy.

"This is an important development."

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said during the media briefing Friday the charter mandated the establishment of an independent permanent commission on human rights.

This says OIC countries are serious about adopting universal values of human rights, including the rights of women, which is again problematic in some countries.

But putting those universal values of democracy and human rights into the new OIC charter will not automatically spark democratization.

The charter will not immediately create respect for human rights, especially the rights of women, in all OIC member countries, especially those countries with autocratic regimes.

Here, Indonesia can play a role.

The archipelago has been democratized over the past 10 years and the improvement around human rights in the country could help spread the values of democracy and human rights to other OIC member countries.

In fact, before the charter was adopted, Yudhoyono had already promoted democracy as a means of peaceful jihad before the Islamic leaders from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Promoting peaceful jihad, Yudhoyono said, would help improve the image of Islam and Muslims. He said it would boost their influence on the international stage and would help usher-in an Islamic renaissance.

"When the Islamic renaissance comes it will be the natural fruit of a peaceful and constructive jihad," Yudhoyono said.

Promoting a peaceful jihad is a daunting task indeed especially in a situation where Muslims are suffering from foreign occupation in many parts of the world, especially in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In their final communique, the Muslim body condemned all acts of terrorism committed in the name of Islam, but at the same time, it said terrorism should be differentiated from "legitimate resistance against foreign occupation".

It referred to the struggle of the Palestinian people against Israel's occupation.

OIC indeed tip-toed around difficult positions on this matter, between terrorism and the struggle for justice. At one time, it angered the Philippines government when it accepted the Moro National Liberation Front.

The OIC has been confronted with other delicate issues, including the Muslim struggle in southern Thailand and the dispute in Kashmir involving Muslims in Pakistan and India.

And now it must decide whether or not to recognize Kosovo's independence.

Again, Indonesia could make a contribution around this matter to the OIC with its experience handling separatism in Aceh.

Indonesia created greater autonomy and local elections in the Sumatran province, giving the Acehnese a greater say in their own affairs.

The essence of these efforts could create a peaceful means of achieving Islamic dreams, or what Yudhoyono calls "jihad of peace".

This would include democracy, good governance and human rights -- all of which are now incorporated in the new OIC charter.

When all Islamic countries adopt a meaningful democracy, good governance and respect for human rights, then Yudhoyono's dream of an Islamic renaissance, would become a real possibility.

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