(Asharq al-Awsat) You have said that the Muslim countries’ participation in the UNIFIL forces is under consideration. Can you elaborate further?
(Ihsanoglu) Sending military forces from Muslim countries is subject to the constitutional process of each country for taking a political decision, as Turkey did when it agreed to send a group of its soldiers to Lebanon. Implementation of this decision requires parliament’s approval. Therefore the Muslim countries’ agreement in principle exists and came before any other party. But there are certain steps that need to be followed. Moreover, the rules of participation in UNIFIL were not clear before Resolution 1701 was issued. Clarification of these rules took some time and there is not any more a barrier impeding things.
(Asharq al-Awsat) Will the participation be symbolic or actual?
(Ihsanoglu) Muslim countries will send forces in the numbers that the Lebanese Government needs and through close cooperation with it.
(Asharq al-Awsat) You visited the Southern Suburb. What impression did this visit leave?
(Ihsanoglu) What happened in Lebanon is classified international terrorism. There is no doubt about this. Destroying all the buildings and killing the families in their houses on the pretexts that they were shelters for military elements are a crime that cannot be justified. We worked for the issuance of an important resolution from the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 11 August. It openly condemns the aggression against Lebanon and asks the United Nations to send a fact-finding mission to look into the violations against human rights in Lebanon and the Geneva conventions on war.
(Asharq al-Awsat) To what extent this resolution can be effective?
(Ihsanoglu) The international factor has it capabilities and limitations. We are seeking the highest level we can reach through this factor. We are also seeking to inform world public opinion of the violations committed by Israel and the breaches it continues to make. We are seeking the issuance of international resolutions that benefit from this factor. But we know that there are some obstacles that we cannot overcome. This does not however mean we cannot focus the interest on the cause so that all those preventing justice can shoulder the responsibility. The Human Rights Council’s resolution is the one that deals with a state’s barbarism and demands bringing it to account.
(Asharq al-Awsat) Did the war on Lebanon prompt you to act in the international arena?
(Ihsanoglu) I have been dealing with all these issues in this spirit from the time I became in charge of the Organization of the Islamic Countries’ (OIC) secretariat. The OIC’s responsibility toward the member countries is moral and political and we therefore work to help them find solutions for their problems and at all political, social, humanitarian, or economic levels. Regarding Lebanon, we were keen to coordinate with the civilian organizations from the first day of the aggression to extend the necessary assistance to the Lebanon. We will continue to take care of the destroyed villages and help their people to return in cooperation with Islamic organizations.
As to Iraq and Palestine, our action goes beyond humanitarian cases to effective participation in establishing civil peace and understanding between the parties to the conflict, as is the case in Iraq where the OIC’s role has crystallized in the reconciliation process through an important plan that we are working to implement with the Iraqi Government. In Palestine, we worked recently to achieve some easing and softening of the language between the factions and calming the air between “Fatah” and “Hamas.”
(Asharq al-Awsat) Do you think that most of the Muslim countries’ problems stem from backwardness and terrorism?
(Ihsanoglu) The two phenomena are linked to each other. If we want to look which one is causing the other we would drown in a whirlpool. But when we look at the history of terrorism and destructive movements resulting from it we see that they originate from two sources. The first is ideological and the second social. We at the Mecca summit wanted it to be a new view for confronting the 21 st Century’s challenges. At King Abdullah Bin-Abdulaziz initiative, we drew up a 10-year plan for developing the Muslim world and getting out from this whirlpool. Of course, this requires development, economic, and cultural projects that cannot be implemented overnight. We cannot come and eliminate terrorism unless we take into consideration a complete process. We are dealing with the governments within this framework and trying to pinpoint the deficiencies so as to treat them.
(Asharq al-Awsat) In view of the current developments, are you expecting the treatment of the terrorism issue to absolve the Muslim countries of this charge?
(Ihsanoglu) The treatment of terrorism cannot be linked to a religion or governments. The issue is much bigger than this and requires an analysis in depth, the correct view, and a long-term treatment that includes various measures and not limited to security ones. Crushing the terrorists never means eliminating terrorism and its causes.
(Asharq al-Awsat) Do you see in King Abdullah’s initiative for the educational curricula a sign leading to eliminating terrorism and its causes?
(Ihsanoglu) King Abdullah is loyal to the Arab and Muslim nation, and I do not say this diplomatically. He is loyal and wishes his country and the Muslim nation well. The success of the extraordinary Islamic summit in Mecca was the result of a sincere vision by the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the outcome of persistent efforts by the Saudi Foreign Ministry with the OIC. Education within the framework of eliminating the causes of terrorism has become fundamental because it ensure protecting the mentality and shaping it the correct way. It also accustoms man to be open in his view of the outside world.