The Islamic Cooperation Summit begins today in Cairo and Iranian President Ahmadinejad is there, marking the first visit by and Iranian head of state to Egypt in more than three decades. Ties between the two countries were severed in 1979, the year of Iran’s Islamic Revolution and Egypt’s monumental peace agreement with Israel. (For an idea of the historical animosity between the two countries, consider that there is a street in Tehran named after the Islamist who assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.) Initiating the most current attempt at detente, Iran welcomed Egyptian leader Mohamed Morsi in June 2012 for a visit, but the two countries are still split over the civil war in Syria. Nevertheless, both countries will participate in the Summit, testimony to the resilience and importance of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. (Syria itself won’t be represented directly; its membership in the organization is suspended because of the war.)
Founded in 1969, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, has 57 member states with a collective population of 1.6 billion. Its most recent member (the only one to join in the 21st century) is the Republic of Cote D’Ivoire–38.6% Islamic. (Note: Although India has about 10% of the world’s Muslim population, it has been blocked by member nation Pakistan from joining the OIC.) The current OIC Secretary General is Prof. Dr. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, a cosmopolitan science historian who was born into a Turkish family in Cairo. On February 2, 2013, the Secretary General condemned the Israeli aggression on Syria, the suicide bomber attack in Ankara, Turkey, and the burning of Islamic manuscripts in Timbuktu.