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CAN ISLAMIC COUNTRIES BE DESCRIBED AS A GREAT
1 DEFINING THE ISLAMIC COUNTRIES . 1 2 DEFINING THE GREAT POWER OF THE ISLAMIC COUNTRIES . 3 3 CONCLUSION . 6 LÄHTEET . 7
In this paper Islamic nation is a country where majority of people is Muslims or the state
religion is Islam. By union I assume that cooperation between Islamic countries exists, but
I am well aware that “Islamic world” is simplified definition. The context of this paper is
modern days. The aim is to think what kind of aspects of Great Powers modern day Islamic
First of all, one should be careful when trying to define, who or what is Islamic. Religion is
only one part of people's identity. Also it's difficult to determine, how much religion is
effecting to the choices and actions people make. The main reason of modern conflicts is
tend to make classifications of people by race, religion or culture.
It's difficult to determine, which country is Islamic. One simplified way is just to make
statistical analysis and look at the countries where the majority of people officially confess
the islamic religion1. Another way is to count the countries where Islam is the official
religion of state. The problem is, in that definition we assume that people equals the nation.
Many various people inhabit countries with different interests, beliefs and principles.
Second problem is that Muslims are not homogenous group. For example political
tendencies of Sunni and Shia Islamic ideologies differ in many ways.
Another question is, can we determine Islamic way of political rule. One argument is that
the rule is ideologically based on the laws of Islamic religion. But still it’s hard to say, how
much, if any, it is really effecting to the everyday political decision-making.
Is there an Islamic union? There is an Organization of Islamic Cooperation2. The member
states are with large Muslim populations, not necessarily Muslim majority countries. The
organization states that it is the collective voice of the Muslim world and works to
2 Organization of Islamic Cooperation, 2013.
safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim countries in the spirit of promoting
international peace and harmony. But after all, it is impossible to se how strong is the real
unity of Islamic states. Iraq got no help from others even though Western intruder attacked
2 Defining the Great Power of the Islamic countries
In the course we were introduced two major criteria for Great Power. First there must be
consensus that everybody agrees that a particular state was a Great Power during a specific
period of time. Second there must be capabilities that characterize national power.
According to Kenneth Waltz great power can be determined by five criteria: population
and territory, resource endowment, economic capability, political stability and competence
In media and print the term “Islamic world” or “Muslim world” is commonly used. In last
chapter I discussed the problem of the definition. The term became overexploited after the
terrorist attacks in US 2001. It’s often used to build image of a hostile world towards
Western people. One common enemy makes actions easier to justify. Maybe we can agree
that at least we’ve imagined agreement that Great Power of Islamic world exists. Even
though in reality there might just be nations with all the differences and one common
There are 1,6 billion Muslims in the world so about 23,6% and quickly estimated ¼ of
world territory is Islamic3. According to that criterion, as a whole, Islamic world is a Great
Power. The interesting thing about Islamic countries is that they own huge amount of oil.
The top oil producers in the world are Saudi Arabia, Canada, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and United
Arab Emirates. The original establishers of OPEC were Iran, Irak, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia
and Venezuela. Only Canada and Venezuela are non-Islamic. The organization was mainly
established for controlling the prices of oil. 1973 there was the oil crisis, which reflected
the power of oil producing countries. The prices were four times higher and many
countries had huge difficulties because of that. But there’s an interesting article in Forbes
saying that even with the huge oil resources, some Islamic countries have failed to create
productive economic activity4. The problem with resource-based economy is that wealth is
distributed much more unequally and inefficiently. Yes, that’s true, but we have to
remember that the money from oil sheiks mainly funds the well being of a single person in
Saudi Arabia. The oil makes Islamic countries powerful and at the same time very
vulnerable. Working economic system is hard to develop when trade and production are
Great Power has to be politically stable and important factor in international diplomacy.
Islamic country is economically important as long as it has oil. The nation is politically
stable as long as the people are happy. And the people are happy as long as their basic
needs are fulfilled. And that’s possible as long as the country has money to fulfill them.
Small elite rules many Islamic countries directly or non-directly. In some countries the
elite is army, in others it’s the sheiks. Some countries have elections, but the elected
politicians are still usually ruled by others, army or sheiks. The power over people is many
times held with strict laws and propaganda.
The main question is how powerful the Islamic countries are in international politics. One
aspect to the question is that Islamic world has become the main subject in United States
domestic and foreign policy. After the terror strikes Islamic enemy was used as a weapon
in domestic policy. Vote for Bush meant vote for security. Nowadays, with the new
president, US are more careful with Islam world. War against hostile Muslims has become
war against the hostile tribes in certain countries, which just happen to be Islamic. In last
US president elections there were two major subjects, economy and relations to the Islamic
There is no NATO or any such alliance among Muslim countries. Occasionally some
neighboring countries form a military alliance, but they lack the longevity of well-planned
strategy. Sometimes some country proposes Muslim states to set up joint military power5.
But from the military aspect it’s not possible to say that Islamic World would be collective
Great Power. One reason is that there are no real alliances and another is that Islamic
One interesting point is that there’s one Islamic country, Pakistan, which has nuclear
weapons. It’s interesting because North Korea is now threatening the whole world with
nuclear war. Why Pakistan is not using the nuclear weapons as political weapon. The main
concern about Pakistan nuclear missiles seems to be that they may fall in the hands of
There are other aspects of power than just money and military. Islamic world has
extremely long traditions. Its culture has flourished and expanded since the religion was
established. Many of the western inventions are based on achievements of Islamic science.
Especially in mathematics, astronomy and medicine. Many of the achievements are not
acknowledged just because they are not known. Every time we count numbers, it’s based
on traditions from Islamic science. The same argument is valid for other culture, literature,
How about modern days? Multinational companies rule the economical world. Nowadays
it’s hard to say, what nationality new inventions or technologies have. I tried to find out
about Islamic technology and immediately I realized how absurd my mission was. Even
though we can admit that most of the new technologies seem to come from United States,
it’s a product of very international process.
In this paper I tried to discuss if it is possible to define Islamic countries as Great Power
union. I found the mission very difficult. First trouble was that I found out how little I
know about the subject. I started to realize for example how little Islamic culture is taught
in schools. Second trouble was that I soon found out, it is impossible to define Islamic
countries as a whole. I really could not fit for example Indonesia and Saudi Arab under
same definition. To make more deep analysis about the subject, I should choose one
country, for example Iran and evaluate it in the perspective of Great Power. After the
evaluation I should think how well that country represents the other Islamic countries.
Even though it seems to be hard to define “Islamic world” as a whole, the concept exits in
media and political discussion. Maybe it’s more psychological phrase, used to fulfill
imagination with strange, powerful, unpredictable threat to Western stability.
Wikipedia. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_world. Cited 3.4.2013.
Organization of Islamic Cooperation. 2013. http://www.oic-oci.org/home.asp. Cited
Lackley, R. 2013. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2013/01/08/why-have-the-
resources-like-switzerland-have-flourished/. Cited 3.4.2013.
Fars News Agency. 2013. http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=9107139089.
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