Prime Minister Erdogan's well-publicized tour of North Africa generated a lot of momentum, and talk of increased business ties--all good for the region. But I believe Turkey, through its private and non-governmental sector, can do more than this, and help realize political and social solutions for Muslim-majority societies by linking them together creatively. I've written an op-ed on this in Today's Zaman.
Like many other terms, "ummah" has been tarnished by the actions of violent extremists and unimaginative literalists, eager for resumptions of "khilafa" (i.e., the Caliphate) which are irrelevant and unnecessary in the modern day; their unreality further masks their dangerousness, as they are predicated on political forms which would be unlikely to produce meaningful democracy, inclusivity, or social justice.
But the underlying Islamic ideal of mutual help and cooperation should not be the proverbial baby thrown out with the outmoded bath water. Many Muslims remain frustrated with ineffective politics, and that frustration can have problematic consequences. Hence, my proposal: There are ways in which Muslim societies can develop real forms of cooperation, not through political homogeneity, but through cosmopolitan dialogue and debate.
Too often, cosmopolitanism is defined solely as the ability of someone to engage with certain types of Western culture--an alienated Pakistani fluent in American pop culture is "cosmopolitan," but a Muslim scholar who travels the world, although unknown to fashionable consumerism, is considered boorish and provincial. There can be other types of cosmopolitanism and intellectual generosity; the same prejudice is directed towards Americans who do not fit into certain concepts of what is sophisticated.
I'll be elaborating on this theme in my khutbah (sermon) today at Masjid Darul Qur'an in Bay Shore (Long Island); I also touched on this topic yesterday at Stony Brook's MSA event, "My Muslim Neighbor."