MECCA, Saudi Arabia, (Reuters) – Member states of the Muslim world”s biggest body are expected to approve on Thursday a 10-year plan aimed at boosting development and domestic trade in a bid to help cure woes that lead to extremism and violence.
The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), grouping a billion Muslims, made the announcement after the first day of an extraordinary summit on Wednesday held in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, the birth place of Islam.
Participating delegates, around half of them heads of state, from 57 countries painted a bleak picture of the state of the Muslim world, with reports by international organisations, such as the United Nations, citing the urgent need for reforms.
"Everyone (heads of delegations) has opened his heart and mind … to provide his view on how to open the way for a new future," Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said at a news conference.
The plan, to be unveiled on Thursday, had unanimous backing.
"We hope it will be executed, if it does it will usher in an era of development for the Muslim world," Saud added.
It includes a fund for development and disaster relief and will raise within 10 years the volume of internal trade by more than half to 20 percent of OIC members” total trade exchange, he said.
No details were provided on the budget for the fund, which will be overseen by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), a financial institution which contracts soft loans to OIC”s member states, based in Saudi Arabia, also its main financier.
Saud made clear that all Muslim countries, regardless of their size, will be expected to contribute to the fund.
NEW SPIRIT IN MECCA
Secretary-General Ekmelettin Ihsanoglu, appointed this year to reinvigorate the OIC, said the plan is a chance for "Muslim nations to solve their woes, woes that lead to violence and extremism".
"There is a new spirit that emerges today in Mecca … It responds to the Muslim nation”s cry for help," he said.
Saudi Arabia”s King Abdullah appealed to Muslim leaders in an opening speech to unite and fight extremists who he said have hijacked their religion.
"It bleeds the heart of a believer to see how this glorious civilisation has fallen from the height of glory to the ravine of frailty and how its thoughts were hijacked by devilish and criminal gangs that spread havoc on earth," Abdullah said.