The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an international organization founded in 1969 to serve as the collective voice of Muslims around the world, meets in Istanbul, Turkey this week for its 13th Leaders Summit. The event takes place at a difficult time for the ummah when millions of Muslim lives remain at risk in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Palestine and Central African Republic. Others are denied opportunities by failed states, weak governments and social grievances. At a time when the Islamic world faces the most serious challenges in a lifetime, Muslim leaders must show unity and solidarity to promote justice and peace.
Today, terrorism is the number-one challenge that the Muslim world faces. Terrorists not only claim innocent lives, but also inflict irreparable damage to Islamic civilization by distorting the past and hijacking the future. Meanwhile, acts of terrorism perpetrated by DAESH and al-Qaida, among others, fuel discrimination, xenophobia and Islamophobia in the West and leave Muslims more vulnerable to verbal and physical abuse.
As terrorist organizations, including DAESH, remain in the spotlight, the false association of terrorism with Islam means other groups receive carte blanche from the international community. The PKK, which Turkey, the U.S. and European Union recognize as a terrorist organization, is a case in point. Since the 1980s, the group has killed more than 40,000 civilians and servicemen. Some are currently supporting the PKK's Syrian affiliate Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed People's Protection Units (YPG) under the pretext of fighting DAESH. The fact that the PYD and YPG has subjected tens of thousands of Turkmens and Arabs, not to mention rival Kurdish groups, to forced migration and ethnic cleansing has been largely ignored.
Sectarianism has been another pressing problem. By fueling tensions between Shiites and Sunnis to score political points, certain groups have been playing into the hands of terrorists who exploit the anger of a disenfranchised youth and hopeless adults to further escalate tensions in the Islamic world. It is important to keep in mind at all times that Muslim leaders have the power to make a difference in their communities and countries. We must take a stand against oppression and express our solidarity with the oppressed.