Brothers and Sisters,
AL-SALAM WAALAYKOM WA RAHMATULLAH WA BARAKATUH
Let me start by offering my congratulations to His Excellency Ambassador Iskandarov for assuming this very important responsibility, and also to congratulate our brother and friend Ali Sarikaya for the wonderful job he has done when he assumed this responsibility. I would like you to join me to give him a big hand for all that work he has done.
Perhaps part of the problems of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation is that the average age of Secretary General has always been over 65; perhaps you should also add to your declaration that the next OIC SG should be a woman and should not be more than 40 years old.
I see that this is a gathering of youth Muslims, but the percentage of females to males is way down. If the statistics are accurate, in most member States actually females outnumber males; I hope in the next meeting also that reality will be reflected because we always need to listen to that voice instead of speaking in their behalf. With this gender problem, it is always ticklish: we talk about Islam, we talk about the principles, we talk about how we have all the answers, but sometimes it gets very sensitive when it comes to male/female issues in Muslim societies. If we look at the status of women in most of our member States, we have to take a pause and see where it is right now, what you the young people, men and women, can do to change that situation. But I’m way ahead of myself.
Let me just say how delighted I am to be here with you, in this ceremony of Islamic Conference Youth Forum for Dialogue and Cooperation.
ICYF is not a young organization, it has gone through a road, and I think it has accomplished and accumulated many things. What we should think of is how to link this organization with other organizations within the OIC member States apparatus, so that everybody could contribute to everybody else.
I’ve read very carefully the declaration that is the result of this meeting. It’s a wonderful declaration. It calls for many things that the young people want: to ensure social security, to up ring standards of education, to ease school-to-work transition, to bridge gender gap, to raise youth awareness, etc. These are things that you want to see happening, so that young people can have their chance, can have their say, and participate, but what it is that young people should do, what is your responsibility? What is your responsibility in seeing this happening?
Now being here, what can the OIC do to take part in this process? Our main responsibility as an organization is to create stages, to create challenges, to create possibilities, so young people can actually actualize their ambitions and go through the roads that we all expect you to go.
We are also in the process of opening up media cities in major cities of the member States; this is the age of social media and communication. There should be a place, anywhere, where you live, where you can go, learn the skills, produce those short films that you can show on social media. I think that is one form of empowerment, because this is how you can reach out through social media and other media. We hope to be able to open the first media city very soon into 2015.
We also have an Educational Exchange Program, that maybe some of you are not aware of. The OIC oversees a scholarship program where the top level universities within the member States offer scholarships to students anywhere in the member States. We hope that through you, the word will be spread out to take advantage of that program. We have many universities who offer scholarships, but there are no takers; and it is a pity, because we think that those institutions offer wonderful educational opportunities.
In terms of how to complement each other, as you know in Baku, Azerbaijan, very shortly in 2016, there will be the Islamic Games. You have all followed the World Cup, we all follow the Olympics, but very few of us follow the Islamic Games, where the member States compete in most of the sports that are part of the Olympics. So I invite you, I urge you to create awareness of these coming games, Azerbaijan is investing a lot of money in terms of providing the structure and the infrastructure for receiving all the sports. We want to turn those Games into a young people event, where we can have on a side workshops, capacity building programs, get to know your occasions, and I must thank here the Ministry of Youth in Azerbaijan for all the support and understanding they’ve been giving us to see that being more than just a sport event to watch, to be actually a living experience to all of those who care to attend. I invite you all to take part on those programs.
But without your participation, without your belief, without being optimistic, without actually deeply knowing that there are many dynamics that are actually taking place, it’s not being apologetic, it’s making our Muslim identity, Islamic vision, something that we can grasp and we can translate into some reality. This is the challenge that is most important to all of us, dinosaurs or kittens-alike.
H.E. Iyad Amin Al-Madani
Secretary General of the OIC
Honorary Speech on the 2nd General Assembly of ICYF