In This Article Organization of Islamic Cooperation

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Reference Resources
  • Journals
  • Text Collections
  • Handbooks
  • Official Publications
  • The Islamic Conference and Individual States
  • Role in Specific Issues
  • Islam-West Relations
  • International Organizations
  • Islam and Politics

Islamic Studies Organization of Islamic Cooperation
Saad S. Khan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 May 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0120


No serious study of the contemporary Muslim world can be completely divorced from an understanding of the phenomenon of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Although not very effective—particularly in solving the political problems, conflicts, and issues of the intra-Muslim world—the OIC owes its relevance to its unique status as the only forum among Muslim countries for articulating the sentiments and aspirations of their peoples and attempting to reflect a collective political voice. This largest intergovernmental body of the Muslim countries, commonly known by the abbreviation OIC or sometimes by the shortened form “the Islamic Conference,” is now more of a phenomenon than a coherent or homogenous political platform. Established on 25 September 1969 in response to the arson of the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem—the third holiest shrine in the world of Islam—it has grown in membership from the twenty-two countries that attended the founding conference in Rabat, Morocco, to fifty-seven countries by the early 21st century, spanning Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America. In addition, another three countries and two Muslim-dominated territories (the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao in the Southern Philippines) enjoy observer status. Although what qualifies a country to be treated as a “Muslim state”—and thereby what entitles a country to apply for OIC membership—is under dispute, the fact remains that just under one-third of the United Nations membership is also part of the OIC in member or observer status. The OIC is the largest intra-Islamic body and the biggest—if not the only—intergovernmental forum based principally on a religion. Although the general secretariat of the OIC is located in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jidda (temporarily, its charter insists, “pending the liberation of the holy city of Jerusalem”), to view the OIC as a single organization would be wrong. In fact it is an umbrella for a number of intra-Islamic institutions, federations, and even universities.

General Overviews

The scarcity of coverage of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and its allied bodies’ activities on world electronic news networks is matched by the paucity of literature on the organization itself. The number of books available on the OIC is dwarfed by the sheer number of titles or even catalogue pages on any other major international body, such as the United Nations, the European Union, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. However, understanding the OIC is helpful in understanding international relations within the Muslim world. General titles on the OIC can be divided into two broad categories. The first includes quite a few general research–based books, such as Baba 1994, Ahsan 1988, Khan 2001, and Suny 2000. The second includes compendiums of articles (more often than not, published proceedings of a conference on the OIC), such as Sarwar 1997 and Selim 1994. Compendiums of resolutions and speeches or statements are also available; see Text Collections. This section provides a snapshot of general works on the OIC, including collections of articles and publications of conference proceedings. In its early years the OIC seems not to have generated much enthusiasm among researchers on political Islam. Not a single book appears to have been written on the OIC during the first decade of its existence. After the third Islamic summit at Mecca (1981), the OIC began being cited in research works. Ahsan 1988, a brief exposé on what the OIC does and stands for, was the first book ever written on the OIC. A year earlier Moinuddin 1987 provided an analysis of the OIC charter and other legal documents. This work, though valuable from a legalistic perspective, therefore does not provide insight into the workings and performance of the OIC. Instead, though partly rhetorical, it provides insight on how Muslim ideologues see or want to see the organization’s role. Baba 1994 is a thorough study of the OIC, while Khan 2001 expands research on the OIC to include all of the intra-Islamic bodies that work under it or are affiliated with it. Organisation of the Islamic Conference Secretariat 1995 is the only directory of OIC institutions and, though outdated, is the only means of identifying contact information for OIC institutions for research or any other purpose, given that the Internet revolution has mostly bypassed the OIC bodies, few of which have developed any dynamic websites. Selim 1994 and Sarwar 1997 are compilations of independently written articles on various aspects of the OIC but are representative collections of the Arab view of the OIC and the South and East Asian view of the OIC, respectively. With the end of the 1990s, the heightened expectations of the OIC seem to have begun falling, as did the number volumes written on the organization. Suny 2000 and Akhtar 2005 are later works but do not add a great deal to the printed knowledge of the OIC.

  • Ahsan, Abdullah. The Organization of the Islamic Conference: An Introduction to an Islamic Political Institution. Herndon, VA: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 1988.

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    A small handbook on the establishment and early history of the OIC. Part is rhetorical, and part overlaps with the author’s subsequent work, Ummah or a Nation? Identity Crisis in the Muslim World (Leicester, UK: Islamic Foundation, 1992).

  • Akhtar, Shahnaz. The Organization of Islamic Conference: Political and Economic Co-Operation (1974–1994). Lahore, Pakistan: Research Society of Pakistan, 2005.

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    Deals primarily with the OIC’s cooperation on the Palestine issue and the various action plans for creating a single market of the Muslim world.

  • Baba, Noor Ahmad. Organisation of Islamic Conference: Theory and Practice of Pan-Islamic Cooperation. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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    A good effort at understanding the phenomenon of Pan-Islamic cooperation under the OIC umbrella. The main argument is that the OIC is a replacement of the institution of the caliphate. This book also mentions but does not study the various organizations that sprouted under the OIC.

  • Khan, Saad S. Reasserting International Islam: A Focus on the Organization of the Islamic Conference and Other Islamic Organizations. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    This thick volume details the genesis and chronology of the OIC, its charter, its structure, and its bureaucracy—including profiles of its bosses—and discusses the organization’s role in conflict resolution, with case studies of its crisis management and its position on important international issues. Also studies all of the organizations that developed under its umbrella and includes reference documents.

  • Moinuddin, Hassan. The Charter of the Islamic Conference and Legal Framework of Economic Co-Operation among Its Member States. Oxford: Clarendon, 1987.

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    Basically dissects the original charter of the OIC and the rationale behind the provisions. Good from a legalistic point of view, but the charter itself has subsequently been substantially amended.

  • Organisation of the Islamic Conference Secretariat. Guide to the OIC. Jidda, Saudi Arabia: Organisation of the Islamic Conference Secretariat, 1995.

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    Briefly overviews the structure and objectives of each of the OIC’s organs. Not helpful for research but can serve as a directory of existing institutions established by or affiliated with the OIC and includes telephone and fax numbers and postal addresses, now available on the website of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference Permanent Mission to the United Nations (see Reference Resources).

  • Sarwar, Ghulam, ed. OIC: Contemporary Issues of the Muslim World. Papers presented at “Contemporary Issues in Information Technology in OIC Member States,” Islamabad, 26–27 July 2005. Rawalpindi, Pakistan: Foundation for Research on International Environment, National Development, and Security, 1997.

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    Published proceedings of more than ten papers read at a two-day symposium on the OIC organized by the Foundation for Research on International Environment, National Development, and Security in June 1995 in Islamabad. Views the OIC from multiple angles but offers almost no fresh, groundbreaking research.

  • Selim, Mohammad el-Sayed, ed. The Organization of the Islamic Conference in a Changing World. Cairo, Egypt: Center for Political Research and Studies, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 1994.

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    A compilation of four articles on contemporary issues of the OIC. One is a detailed exposition of the OIC’s stance on the Palestine issue.

  • Suny, Ismail. The Organization of the Islamic Conference. Jakarta, Indonesia: Pustaka Sinar Harapan, 2000.

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    A fairly small book looking at the changing role of the OIC in the post–Cold War era.

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