There has always been more than one variation of worldwide Islamic solidarity, especially in the modern era. Also, Islam as a religion has quite a few renditions, each substantially distinct from the other.
But the idea of faith-based solidarity is a problematic thing. Majority of the followers of a religion, at some stage of their lives, look for rationale in faith and that results in deflection streams.
It has been a historical process. It’s almost impossible for most people to adhere to the primitive orthodox versions of faiths and religions.
Trends of religiosity in a society depend on the general characteristics of the dominant interpretation of religions under consideration (in terms of difficulty, rigidity, and flexibility), and strengths of the orthodox religious and liberal undercurrents in that society.
Also, other aspects of one’s identity, eg race, ethnicity, language, family/tribe/clan etc have important influence on the individual and communal identity formation.
But there is another aspect of religion-based identity, which is more religio-cultural than faith-based. Religio-cultural components like religious festivals, rituals, values, attire, vocabulary, and mental orientation construct that identity.
Often, this identity conforms or contradicts the secular or other religion induced elements in an individual or community identity.
Solidarity and loyalty
The dominant variation of Islamic solidarity since early 20th century has been the religio-cultural one. For non-Arab Muslims of various countries, this trans-national bondage was in some conflict with the secular or other religion-induced national identity. Also persisted the question of primary loyalty, when these two are in some real or hypothetical divergence.
The dualism, by and large, survived, despite creating occasional hiccups, and one didn’t gobble up the other. General Muslims of various nations always felt that if they are in danger or in need, in addition to their own countrymen and international allies, the global Islamic community will be by their side notwithstanding the fact that sometimes Muslims fought Muslims in the past and clearly more so now.
In reality, such expected support, in various forms, was received by the affected Islamic community to a considerable degree.
Islamic solidarity emanating from the cultural bondage was a very useful thing for global Muslims, and it was hardly tied with orthodox version of the religion
Wealth of Middle Eastern and North African nations due to discovery of oil and gas in their lands has been instrumental to this end.
It put the oil rich Arab nations in prominence in the equation. Formation of OIC institutionalised this trans-national solidarity.
Now, many Muslim countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Af-Pak region, parts of west and east Africa are in complete disarray. The human and collateral costs have been immense.
Close to a million Muslims died and several millions internally and externally displaced in the last few years in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Large parts of these countries were turned into sheer rubble, the destruction was so intense.
Economic and military power of erstwhile, relatively strong, nations like Iraq, Syria, and Libya have been diminished. It tilted the geo-strategic balance of power hugely in favour of hawkish Israel, which now has almost a free hand on Palestinian matter -- an issue that mobilised global Muslims for the cause of righteousness over many decades now. A two-state solution with Palestine on one side looks ever elusive.
The Muslim diaspora
There are also troubles in Muslim dominated or influenced areas of Kashmir, southern Philippines, southern Thailand, and western Myanmar.
Islamic diaspora in the West has gotten infested with the germ of terrorism and, as a result, Muslims in the West are being persecuted and discriminated, with Islamophobia in the rise.
India has the third largest population in the world. Muslims are being persecuted there, with the rise of Hindu right-wing social and political forces.
Global superpowers are busy advancing their own selfish interest in the regions of the Islamic world, and arming and instigating one against another. Sane Muslims find it difficult to understand what’s so bad with Iran and why Saudi Arabia, another bad country by a lot of measures, has so much animosity against the former as almost openly dictated by the US and Israel.
Cultural bondage among global Muslims and the solidarity thereof is a real thing. Apparently, the mutual collision course adopted by political leadership of the Middle Eastern nations is for mean vested interests.
Collective and substantive efforts are not being undertaken against the root causes of the misery of the Muslims, which are Islamic radicalism, terrorism, sectarianism, and lack of progressiveness that has amounted to the destruction of Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, and still is enlarging the cleavage of division among the Muslims, including pushing the Islamic societies in the path of regression.
The vibrant Islamic solidarity among all the Muslims nations and sects of the 70s, 80s, and 90s are waning in an alarming rate, creating a big vacuum of insecurity in the psyche and reality of Muslims.
Muslims are being lynched in India every now and then and there is hardly any reaction from the Islamic world now.
The kings and emirs are rather keen in bonding with right-wing Narendra Modi.
Netanyahu has increased Jewish settlement activities in the Palestinian lands and that’s hardly in the agendas of the Muslim nations. The Islamic world could undertake no effective measure against persecution and expulsion of the Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar.
They are busy with their sectarian infighting and ensuring, in the process, the implosion of the Islamic world.
Islamic solidarity emanating from the cultural bondage was a very useful thing for global Muslims, and it was hardly tied with orthodox versions of the religion.
Muslim nations cooperated with each other on trade, commerce, inventions, infrastructural developments, labour migration and employment, aid, eradication of poverty, investment, relief and disaster management, diplomacy, and military matters. All these seem to be in a downward spiral now.
It’s about time the leadership of the Islamic world come together and make a last ditch effort to salvage whatever is left of the solidarity that gave security, prosperity, and assurance to the worldwide Islamic community, and also to a huge number of people from other communities -- and in turn, contribute to the balance and stability of Asia and Africa.
Sarwar Jahan Chowdhury is a freelance commentator on politics, society, and international relations. He currently works at BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD).