DAKAR: The Organization of the Islamic Conference opened its 11th summit Thursday here, bringing together dozens of heads of state and the UN secretary general. The OIC plans to discuss poverty reduction and humanitarian aid as well as concerns about negative perceptions of Islam during the two-day meeting. The Saudi-based group has a membership of 57 nations, and supports Muslim interests around the world. The OIC describes itself as the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations.
OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, of Turkey, has called for the organization to engage in a more productive dialogue with the non-Muslim world. This is the first year the United States is sending an envoy to the conference. President Bush appointed a Pakistan-born Texas entrepreneur Sada Cumber to attend, saying he is to promote respectful dialogue and show that the United States is a friend.
The director of the West African Research Center in Dakar Ousmane Sene says the conference could also help transform negative images of Islam. Human rights groups and religious leaders concerned with the volatile situation in Sudan’s Darfur region have called on the OIC to push for an end to violence there.-SANA