In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Organization of Islamic Cooperation

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Reference Resources
  • Journals
  • Text Collections
  • Handbooks
  • Official Publications
  • The Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Individual States
  • Works on the OIC’s Role in Specific Issues
  • Islam-West Relations
  • International Organizations
  • Islam and Politics

Islamic Studies Organization of Islamic Cooperation
Saad S. Khan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 July 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2018
  • 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 Organization of Islamic Cooperation (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, formerly named the Organization of the Islamic Conference, is better known by the abbreviation OIC. The present name was approved on 28 June 2011 at the 38th meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers (called “Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers” till that time), held at Astana, Kazakhstan, where the OIC Charter was also amended and its logo changed. The organization 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 (including Palestine, which the OIC recognizes as a “state”) by 2001, when Ivory Coast joined it as the 57th member. Spanning Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America, the OIC membership has a total population of around 1.6 billion people. In addition, another four countries (Russia, Thailand, Central African Republic, and Bosnia and Herzegovina) and two Muslim-dominated territories (the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the southern Philippines) enjoy observer status. Another fourteen states, including China, Belarus, South Africa, and India, are, or have long been, applicants for observer status at the OIC. 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, as its charter insists, in Article 21, that it shall be relocated to the holy city of Jerusalem, upon its “liberation”). To view the OIC as a single organization would be wrong. In fact it is an umbrella organization for a number of intra-Islamic institutions, federations, and even universities.

General Overviews

The scarcity of coverage of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation 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, resolutions, and speeches or statements; 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, as it stood at that time, and some other legal documents, such as the framework agreement for economic cooperation between the OIC member states. 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. From a legal perspective, two recent works are valuable addition to the OIC’s legal framework: a voluminous work on OIC’s law making on terrorism (Samuel 2013), and a short monograph on the OIC’s human rights framework (Petersen 2012). Doebbler 2013, although written by a lawyer, is more an analysis of the structure of the OIC and how its rules are applied. 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. An insider’s view of the OIC is furnished by a book by a former Secretary General of the organization, Ihsanoglu 2010. A positive critique of the OIC’s role in conflict resolution is offered by Sharqieh 2012. Selim 1994 and Sarwar 1997 are compilations of independently written articles on various aspects of the OIC, but they are representative collections of the Arab view of the OIC and the South and East Asian view of the OIC, respectively. By the end of the 1990s, the heightened expectations of the OIC had already begun to fall, as did the number of works being written on the organization. The debate in the recent years in the Muslim world revolves around the question of whether it would be worthwhile to keep the OIC alive. Suny 2000 is a later work, but it hardly adds anything substantial to the available printed knowledge of the OIC. A better understanding of the OIC is, however, is available through Kayaoglu 2015.

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

    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).

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

    A good effort at understanding the phenomenon of Pan-Islamic cooperation under the OIC umbrella. Baba’s 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.

  • Doebbler, Curtis F. J. Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands: Kluwer Law International, 2013.

    This 180-page volume by an international human rights lawyer is derived from the multivolume Encyclopedia of International Law; it provides analysis of the structure, competence, and management of the OIC. It gives an insight into the roles and rules of the OIC and how they are applied.

  • Ihsanoglu, Ekmeleddin. Islamic World in the New Century: The Organization of the Islamic Conference 1969–2009. London: Hurst, 2010.

    Right from the horse’s mouth, the OIC could scarcely be understood better than through a work written by a person who was twice elected Secretary General of the organization. Ihsanoglu, who headed the OIC from 2005 to 2014, is the only OIC Secretary General to have written a book on the OIC. It was under his watch that the new name, charter, logo, and orientation of the OIC took place, although his work covers the history of OIC only until 2009 (i.e., before the reforms took effect). However, important insider details of all the reform initiatives, including the Niamey Process, the Jidda Process, and the work done by Eminent Persons Group. The book also gives a snapshot of the OIC subsidiary and specialized organs, describes OIC viewpoint on human rights, good governance, and its economic cooperation programs, and deals with an incisive look into Muslim world conflicts in which the OIC became involved.

  • Kayaoglu, Turan. Organization of Islamic Cooperation: Politics, Problems, and Potential. London: Routledge, 2015.

    One of the most recent works on OIC’s politics and policies on global issues, such as human rights, the global economy, and the Dialogue of Civilizations.

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

    This thick volume details the genesis and chronology of the OIC, its charter, its structure, and its political and bureaucratic leadership—including profiles of all its Secretary Generals—and discusses the organization’s role in conflict resolution. It provides detailed case studies of the OIC’s role in crisis management within the Muslim world, and on the OIC’s position on important international issues. The work also studies all the subsidiary and specialized organs, as well as the independent organizations, that developed under the OIC umbrella. Quite a few new organizations have sprung up within the OIC framework, and the OIC website (see Reference Resources below) gives the updated list. The work includes reference documents such as the final communiqués of all the Islamic Summit conferences held until the publication of the work.

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

    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, so that the relevance of this work for the present researcher is limited.

  • Petersen, Marie Juul. Islam or Universal Human Rights: The OIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission. Copenhagen: Danish Institute for International Studies, 2012.

    This is a 78-page monograph studying the role and impact of the OIC’s Human Rights Commission, created after the reforms of recent years (2008–2011). Petersen also tackles the question of whether Islam and modern human rights are compatible, and comes with the conclusion that a simple Yes/No answer is not possible.

  • Samuel, Katja L. H. The OIC, the UN, and Counter Terrorism Law-Making: Conflicting or Cooperative Legal Order? London: Hart, 2013.

    Book 48 in the Studies on International Law Series, this 618-page volume is highly relevant to those working on international law relating to terrorism. A comparison between the legal documents of the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation is made in terms of principles, values, and rules. The work explores the role of the OIC as a lawmaker and lawgiver by studying the treaties made under, resolutions adopted by, and the customary law developed through the OIC. The book also comments on the narrative (ir)relevance of OIC’s nature and goals in the international legal context.

  • 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.

    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 (FRIENDS) 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.

    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.

  • Sharqieh, Ibrahim. “Can the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Resolve Conflicts?.” Peace and Conflict Studies 19.2 (2012).

    The article explores the potential of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to contribute to the mediation of conflicts between Muslim states or Muslim communities. From a study of four case studies from Iraq, Philippines, Somalia, and Thailand, through interviews of the government officials of these countries and those from the OIC Secretariat, the paper takes a positive view of the OIC’s contributions in conflict resolution. The paper identifies the advantages and challenges for the OIC and makes recommendations for the future.

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

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

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