The events of the 2016 summit of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Turkey demonstrate how Saudi Arabia’s role within the organization has been transformed from leadership into a hegemonic one, a process that has been unfolding over five decades. As a strong voice in the Muslim world, Saudi Arabia has employed a range of diplomatic strategies, in accordance with its national interests, to influence the OIC and its member states. Based on the analysis, this paper argues that Saudi Arabia has been able to exert hegemonic control over the OIC due to the organization’s structural make-up, its reliance on Saudi funding, as well as dominance in bilateral affairs with majority of the OIC members.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
The Index of State Weakness in the Developing World defines weak states as “countries that lack the essential capacity and/or will to fulfill four sets of critical government responsibilities: fostering an environment conducive to sustainable and equitable economic growth; establishing and maintaining legitimate, transparent, and accountable political institutions; securing their populations from violent conflict and controlling their territory; and meeting the basic human needs of their population” (Index of State Weakness in the Developing World 2008, p. 3). However, in this paper, the authors use a simplistic definition comparing states based on the following indicators: size of GDP, per capita income, military strength, geographical size, and population.
Although not a recent phenomenon, the issue of how to combat terrorism lacks consensus within the international community. Here, by consensus, we do not simply mean signing of agreements/conventions etc., but joint actions. Similar is the position of the OIC, which, in the early 1990s, produced an agreement in which all members agreed to abstain from allowing their territories to be used for terrorist activities. The agreement was merely a “face-saving” step that camouflaged inherent divisions within the OIC, especially when there were accusations of cross-border terrorism directed at Iran and Sudan. Thus, the agreement could not produce concrete actions via OIC.
Traditionally, Saudi aid has been limited to the Muslim world, which Riyadh views as its sphere of influence, but since 2006, some aid has also been given to non-Muslim countries, such as Cambodia (Barton 2006).
After Pakistan was hit by floods in 2010, the OIC generated US$1 billion in aid with major contributions from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait, and Qatar (Zuhur 2011, p. 169).
The kings of Bahrain and Jordan and presidents of Egypt, Iran, Yemen, Pakistan, Tunis, Nigeria, Chad, Gabon, Sudan, Bangladesh, Uganda, and Turkey attended the summit.
According to an estimate, 87–90% of all the world’s Muslims are Sunnis and about 10–13% at Shia (Naji and Jawan 2013, p. 5).
Egypt’s membership was reinstated in 1984.
In addition, Saudi Arabia has been providing funding for construction of new mosques in Jordan ((Nevo 1994, p. 108).
There were false reports, for example, in Iranian Diplomacy (17 April 2013), that Saudi Arabia had earlier refused visas to Iranian officials for the emergency meeting held on 21 January 2016. At the meeting, the Iranian delegation was led by its Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi.
The Statistical, Economic, Social Research and Training Center for Islamic Countries is based in Ankara, Turkey. The Research Center for Islamic History, Art, and Culture is based in Istanbul, Turkey. The Islamic University of Technology is based in Gazipur, Bangladesh. The Islamic Center for the Development and Trade is based in Casablanca, Morocco. The International Islamic Fiqh Academy and Islamic Solidarity Fund and its waqf are based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Ahmad, I. (2008). The organization of the Islamic Conference: from ceremonial politics towards politicization? In C. Harders & M. Legrenzi (Eds.), Beyond regionalism? Regional cooperation, regionalism and regionalization in the Middle East (pp. 125–138). London: Routledge.
Ahmed, Z. S. (2013). Regionalism and regional security in South Asia: the role of SAARC. New York: Routledge.
Akbarzadeh, S. (2016). Iran after nuclear deal: renewed isolation or a pay-off for Pres. Rouhani?. 21 April 2016 http://www.juancole.com/2016/04/iran-after-nuclear-deal-renewed-isolation-or-a-pay-off-for-pres-rouhani.html.
Akbarzadeh, S., & Connor, K. (2005). The Organization of Islamic Conference: sharing an illusion. Middle East Policy, 12(2), 79–92.
Al Tamamy, S. M. (2012). Saudi Arabia and the Arab Spring: opportunities and challenges of security. Journal of Arabian Studies, 2(2), 143–156.
Al-ahsan, A. (2004). Conflict among Muslim nations: role of the OIC in conflict resolution. Intellectual Discourse, 12(2), 137–157.
Alsharif, A. (2012). Organisation of Islamic Cooperation suspends Syria. 14 August 2012 http://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-crisis-islamic-summit-idUSBRE87E19F20120815.
Barnard, A. (2016). Saudi Arabia cuts billions in aid to Lebanon, opening door for Iran. The New York Times, 2 March 2016 https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/03/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-cuts-billions-in-aid-to-lebanon-opening-door-for-iran.html.
Barton, J. (2006). Saudis donate aid to non-Muslims. Telegraph, 26 March 2006 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/saudiarabia/1514026/Saudis-donate-aid-to-non-Muslims.html.
Batchelor, T. (2015). UK ranked as FIFTH most powerful military in the world. Express, 14 December 2015 http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/625810/World-most-powerful-army-UK-fifth-strongest-military.
Bates, T. R. (1975). Gramsci and the theory of hegemony. Journal of the History of Ideas, 36(2), 351–366.
Bhasin, M. (2008). India’s role in South Asia—perceived hegemony or reluctant leadership. www.globalindiafoundation.org/MadhaviBhasin.pdf.
Brown, S., & Gravinghold, J. (Eds.). (2016). The securitization of foreign aid. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
Clark, I. (2011). Hegemony in international society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Destradi, S. (2008). Empire, hegemony, and leadership: developing a research framework for the study of regional powers. Hamburg: Institute of Global and Area Studies.
Destradi, S. (2010). Regional powers and their strategies: empire, hegemony, and leadership. Review of International Studies, 36(4), 903–930.
Dorsey, J. M. (2016). Creating frankenstein: the impact of Saudi export ultra-conservatism in South Asia. 24 July 2016 http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2813898.
Erdbrink, T. (2016). Iranian unit tests missiles, accusing U.S. of threats. The New York Times, 8 March 2016 https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/09/world/middleeast/irans-revolutionary-guards-test-nationwide-ballistic-missiles.html.
Fleurant, A., Perlo-Freeman, S., Wezeman, P. D., & Wezeman, S. T. (2016). Trends in international arms transfer, 2015. Stockholm: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Hannah, J. (2016a). For Middle East peace, look to Israel's Arab partners. Foreign Policy, 16 May 2016 http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/16/on-middle-east-peace-do-this-not-that/.
Hannah, J. (2016b). Saudi Arabia strikes back. Foreign Policy, 16 August 2016 http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/08/16/saudi-arabia-strikes-back-3/.
Haynes, J. (2001). Transnational religious actors and international politics. Third World Quarterly, 22(2), 143–158.
Hoodbhoy, P. (2016). Could Pakistan have remained pluralistic? In J. Syed, E. Pio, T. Kamran, & A. Zaidi (Eds.), Faith-based violence and Deobandi militancy in Pakistan (pp. 35–64). London: Macmillan Publishers.
Index of State Weakness in the Developing World (2008). Washington: The Brookings Institution.
Johnson, T. (2010). The Organization of the Islamic Conference. http://www.cfr.org/religion/organization-islamic-conference/p22563.
Karim, U. (2017). The evolution of Saudi foreign policy and the role of decision-making processes and actors. The International Spectator, 52(2), 71–88.
Kechichian, J. A. (2016). Saudi foreign aid reaches new heights. Gulf News, 31 August 2016 http://gulfnews.com/opinion/thinkers/saudi-foreign-aid-reaches-new-heights-1.1888699.
Mabon, S. (2013). Saudi Arabia and Iran: soft power rivalry in the Middle East. London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd..
Meuleman, J. (2011). Dakwah, competition for authorithy and development. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde (BKI), 167(2–3), 236–269.
Naji, S., & Jawan, J. A. (2013). Geopolitics of the Islam and world leadership in the post-Cold War geopolitical developments. Transcience, 4(1), 1–12.
Nasr, V. (2015). Extremism, sectarianism, and regional rivalry in the Middle East. In N. Burns & J. Price (Eds.), America's response to radicalism in the Middle East (pp. 61–67). Queenstown: Aspen Institute.
Nevo, J. (1994). Jordan and Saudi Arabia: the last royalists. In J. Nevo & I. Pappe (Eds.), Jordan in the Middle East: The making of a pivotal state (pp. 103–118). Essex: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd..
Notten, P. W. F. V. (2014). After the Arab Spring: an opportunity for scenarios. European Journal of Future Research, 15(28), 1–6.
OIC. (2014). Statement of the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Iyad Ameen Madani, at the the Opening Session of the Geneva-II Peace Conference on Syria, Montreux - Switzerland. http://www.oic-oci.org/oicv2/m/en/topic/?t_id=8846&t_ref=3547&lan=.
OIC. (2016a). Final communique of the 13th Islamic Summit of the heads of state/government of the OIC member states. Jeddah: Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
OIC. (2016b). OIC Foreign Ministers denounce Iran's interventions in internal affairs and its support for terrorism. OIC Journal, January–March (32), 4–5.
Ottaway, D. B. (2008). The king's messenger: Prince Bandar bin Sultan and America's tangled relationship. New York: Walker & Company.
Partrick, N. (2016). Domestic factors and foreign policy. In N. Partrick (Ed.), Saudi Arabian Foreign Policy: Conflict and Cooperation. London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd..
PRC. (2015). 10 Countries With the Largest Muslim Populations, 2010 and 2050. pew Research Center, 2 April 2015 http://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/muslims/pf_15-04-02_projectionstables74/.
Radelet, S. (2005). Think again: U.S. foreign aid. Foreign Policy, 1 March 2005 http://foreignpolicy.com/2005/03/01/think-again-u-s-foreign-aid/.
Rana, S. (2016). Saudis to give Pakistan $122m in aid. Dawn, 11 March 2016 https://tribune.com.pk/story/1063733/saudis-to-give-pakistan-122m-in-aid/.
Rieger, R. (2017). Saudi Arabian foreign relations: diplomacy and mediation in conflict resolution. London: Routledge.
Sharqieh, I. (2012). Can the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) resolve conflicts? Peace and Conflict Studies, 19(2), 162–179.
Sheikh, N. S. (2003). The new politics of Islam: Pan-Islamism foreign policy in a world of states. New York: Routledge Curzon.
Soloway, B. (2015). Who decides who gets to go on the Hajj? Foreign Policy, 23 September 2015 http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/09/23/how-to-score-a-ticket-to-the-hottest-event-in-saudi-the-hajj/.
Soloway, B. (2016). Hajj closed to Iranians after year of discord. Foreign Policy, 12 May 2016 http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/12/hajj-closed-to-iranians-after-year-of-discord/?utm_content=buffer6fdee&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer.
Spencer, R. (2015). Israel and Saudi present united front over Iran deal. Telegraph.
Thompson, M. J. (2015). False consciousness reconsidered: A theory of defective social cognition. Crit Sociol, 41(3), 449–461.
Toumi, H. (2012). Scholarship given to promote Islamic Studies. Gulf News, 10 September 2012 http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/saudi-arabia/scholarships-given-to-promote-islamic-studies-1.1072381.
Toumi, H. (2016). Jordan recalls its ambassador from Iran. Gulf News, 18 April 2016 http://gulfnews.com/news/mena/jordan/jordan-recalls-its-ambassador-from-iran-1.1715271.
UNDP. (2015). Human Development Report 2015. New York: United Nations Development Program.
Walsh, D. (2016). Egypt gives Saudi Arabia 2 Islands in a show of gratitute. New York Times, 10 April 2016 https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/11/world/middleeast/egypt-gives-saudi-arabia-2-islands-in-a-show-of-gratitude.html.
WB. (2016). Saudi Arabia. World Bank http://data.worldbank.org/country/saudi-arabia?view=chart.
White House (2017). Joint Statement Between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/05/23/joint-statement-between-kingdom-saudi-arabia-and-united-states-america.
Yilmaz, S. (2001). State, power, and hegemony. International Journal of Business, Social and Scientific, 1(3), 192–205.
Yizraeli, S. (2007). Saudi-Israel dialogue: what lies ahead? Strategic Assessment, 10(2), 71–78.
Zuhur, S. (2011). Saudi Arabia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.
About this article
Cite this article
Akbarzadeh, S., Ahmed, Z.S. Impacts of Saudi Hegemony on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Int J Polit Cult Soc 31, 297–311 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10767-017-9270-x
- Saudi Arabia
- Foreign policy