Your Majesties and Highnesses, the leaders of the GCC:
I greet you in the name of my brother, King Fahd bin Abdulaziz, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and I thank my brother, His Highness Sultan Qabous bin Saeed, members of his Government, and the people of Oman for their hospitality; I pray to God for success in our meetings and for direction to benefit our Islamic and Arab community and the world as a whole.
We had hoped to meet today under better circumstances than those currently experienced by our Islamic and Arab community. The will of God Almighty, however, has necessitated that these conditions be imposed upon us, in order to test the resolve and the patience of true believers; as is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an in the verse: “If you persevere patiently and become pious, then verily, that will be a determining factor in all affairs”.
Affliction and catastrophes are in fact opportunities and challenges that make it incumbent upon us to conduct self-scrutiny, review our attitudes and repair errors so that we can emerge - God willing - stronger than we were. The real and deadly risk is to face crises with hands folded and without spirit, and blame others instead of confronting the crises and taking responsibility for our role.
Changing such a painful reality is not possible without changing ourselves. We need first to abide by and believe in the saying of God Almighty: “God will not change the condition of a people as long as they do not change their state themselves”. My speech today will be based on this divine vision.
Our Arab and Muslim community has suffered severe harm as a result of the actions of murderers who have invoked the name of Islam, when Islam is totally innocent of their deeds. They claimed to support the Arab and Muslim community, but that community was the first victim of their evil actions. It is the duty of all Muslims today to forcefully and unequivocally condemn all acts of terror without hesitation, and to denounce whoever supports terrorists in word or deed. It is also their duty to point out the vast difference between the claims of terrorists, and the legitimate struggles of any people for self-determination.
Islam is a religion of tolerance and love. The killing of an innocent person is considered in Islam equal to the killing of all mankind. God Almighty said in the Holy Qur'an: “If anyone kills a person not in retaliation for murder, but to spread mischief in the land, this is as if he killed all mankind.”
Islam also calls for dealing with others through kind dialogue. This is the Islamic approach, even with enemies, and it is the most effective way to win over others to your cause. We have to deal with others prudently and wisely so that we reflect the behavior of the true Muslim who was described by the Prophet Muhammad as follows: “The true Muslim is the one who causes no harm to other Muslims.”
If we look at the Muslim and Arab worlds, we see terrifying images of the painful killings, destruction, and massacres taking place in Palestine before the entire world. These painful scenes compel the Arab and Muslim worlds to face up to their historical responsibility with self-criticism and a need to provide answers to urgent and serious questions that have thus far been avoided.
What have we done with regard to the noble principles of the Arab League? What have we done to put the Joint Defense Treaty into effect? What have we done to realize economic unity? And most important of all, would the bloody oppression in Palestine have taken place had Israel found itself confronted by a community acting effectively and strongly through its institutional bodies?
By finding answers to these questions we will put ourselves in the right track to realizing our true objectives.
For decades, we have wasted more than enough time soliciting the help of foreign countries and international organizations; and wasted more than enough time condemning atrocities committed against us. We should spend our time and efforts in a fruitful manner, and we should dedicate such efforts to self-criticism, thus avoiding repeating our previous mistakes.
We should concentrate all our efforts on putting the Arab and Muslim house in order, so that we become better prepared to face challenges. I believe we are stating facts if we admit that all of us, without exception, have erred against our great community, not only when we allowed our Arab and Muslim relations to be based on skepticism and suspicion instead of openness and frankness, but also when we have sought the help of foreigners, and forgotten our brothers: not only when we opened our homes and markets to the commodities of others while closing them to those of the Arabs and Muslims, but also when we allowed ourselves to attribute our setbacks to foreign conspiracies and a colonization that still lives in the mind.
We have no need for extraordinary summits that issue rhetorical and emotional statements; what we need are summits that probe and analyze, that issue rational and realistic resolutions that can be executed according to reasonable timetables. However, we still have the opportunity to diagnose and rectify the ailment which I believe we all agree on, namely the separation that has created distance between brothers and neighbors. I believe that the remedy is effective cooperation and unity.
We have always striven for unity, but failed when we tied our hopes to symbolic constitutional arrangements that led nowhere. The progress of our unity must learn from its past errors, and should benefit from other successful attempts to unite.
Real unity does not stand on formalities, but on joint economic projects, on unified school curricula that breed a generation of young people able to deal with new variables, and on Arab and Muslim channels that address our own problems.
Problems are normal even within members of one family. The real challenge hinges on our ability to create institutions that are capable of smoothing out differences before they get out of control.
Since the Gulf region is an integral part of the Arab World, the challenge of unification and rapprochement that faces it is similar to that facing the Arab and Muslim community. Accordingly, any success accomplished by any entity in the Gulf, any Arab or Muslim state, is a success for all, because all share common ideals and similarities of culture, history and politics: thus unity and rapprochement are rendered easy to achieve.
The GCC has not yet accomplished its projected aspirations. For over twenty years, the progress of the GCC has been very slow when compared with the pace of the modern age. However, honesty requires us to admit that the GCC member states have been able to make good achievements, chief among them the resolution of most of the lingering border disputes. Still, the meagerness of this part reminds us of the unrealized greater part: we have not yet created a military force capable of confronting enemies and supporting friends; we have not yet achieved a unified economic market; we have not yet been able to forge a unified political position with which to face political crises.
I would like you to allow me, at this point, to remind you, and myself, that our adherence to an exaggerated concept of sovereignty is the main obstacle to our endeavors for unity. Granting more prerogatives to the GCC does not mean breaching our independence as much as it means enhancing and solidifying it. It will also contribute to greater Arab and Muslim unity in terms of position, orientation and objectives. The example of the European Union is a model to follow.
The task of unifying our ranks is our main duty in both the near and distant future, but the exceptional circumstances of today require exceptional actions in order to deal with them.
As regards the economic aspect, oil prices have witnessed a sharp decline that threatens the welfare and prosperity of our peoples and societies. This entitles us to take positions and exert efforts similar to those taken when oil prices fell sharply several years ago. At that time we were able, thanks to God and to our unified firm stand, to overcome the crisis. Now we can, with God's help, confront the current crisis with a similar firm position.
As regards the political aspect, the world is currently witnessing grave developments; we are aware how they came about, but we are unaware of how they will end. And it goes without saying that we will not be able to influence these developments unless we analyze them with a common mindset and address them with one voice.
As regards the cultural aspect, the sources of our Arab and Islamic identity are subject to many pressures and influences, and unless we take a common stand towards them, our distinguished identity may be scarred.
Duty requires us to adopt a moderate civilized discourse that can deal with change without abandoning fundamentals. Our civilization is based on the wonderful blend between Islam and Arabism, and can serve all humanity if we are able to adhere to it, and introduce it to other civilizations.
With the help of God Almighty, and the support of our Arab and Muslim peoples, our leaders will be able to make progress towards greater unity and rapprochement if they continue to fear God and remain dedicated to the interests of their Arab and Islamic community.