Impacts of Saudi Hegemony on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)


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.

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  1. 1.

    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.

  2. 2.

    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.

  3. 3.

    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).

  4. 4.

    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).

  5. 5.

    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.

  6. 6.

    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).

  7. 7.

    Egypt’s membership was reinstated in 1984.

  8. 8.

    In addition, Saudi Arabia has been providing funding for construction of new mosques in Jordan ((Nevo 1994, p. 108).

  9. 9.

    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.

  10. 10.

    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.


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Correspondence to Shahram Akbarzadeh.

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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).

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  • Saudi Arabia
  • Hegemony
  • Leadership
  • OIC
  • Foreign policy