Defining terrorism should be easy. Innocent people should not be made targets for political purposes. Otherwise, none of us are safe. Yet some individuals -- and sadly, some governments -- continue to accept that "one person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter." That makes them complicit in the violence that inevitably follows. Last week, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) did just that. It condemned terrorism, but in the next breath encouraged extremists to continue the slaughter of innocents. In so doing, it undermined its credibility and made it even more difficult to find a solution to the Mideast crisis.

Representatives of 57 Islamic nations met in Malaysia to develop a common stand on terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. A united position could have had significant impact on international diplomacy, given the role those nations could play in the war on terrorism. The determination to unequivocally denounce the slaughter of innocents would mark an important shift in the antiterrorism struggle; it would have altered the environment in which those acts occur and, if followed up by action, could have provided momentum toward the establishment of a genuine peace in the Middle East. Prevarication would only encourage extremists. And the OIC prevaricated.

The group failed to agree on a common definition of terrorism, and threw the question back to the United Nations. According to the declaration released at the end of the meeting, the world body should convene an international conference "to formulate a joint organized response of the international community to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations." In other words, they passed the buck.