Who Will Stand Firmly with the Chechens?
More than anything these days, the Muslim world needs team players. It needs people and leadership willing to sacrifice for the team and for goals and objectives that transcend self-interests.
The is no "I" in "We." But there is one in "individual;" and the Muslim world is plagued with individuals -- individual countries, individual policy makers, individual corporations and individual motivations. And these "I's" have created crisis after crisis for Muslims.
One would think however, that on issues of grave humanitarian concern, self-interest would take a back seat to the rapid resolution of the issue at hand. No where would this be more expected today than in Chechnya where it will truly take a team effort achieve a peaceful existence for the Chechen people. Yet as the crisis in the Caucasus magnifies day by day, Muslim world players continue to follow their own agendas and continue to fail to rally behind their Chechen brethren in any effective manner.
Take Yasser Arafat, for instance. Playing the role of the quintessential "individual," he said in a November 29 meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, that the Chechen crisis was an internal Russian matter that didn't warrant Palestinian interference. Had he remembered to remove the foot that seems permanently lodged in his mouth, he might have more lucidly concluded that the plight of his very own people is not dissimilar to that of the Chechens. Newsflash, Mr. Arafat: you're on the same team as the Chechens. Your people have even demonstrated in the streets in support of the Chechens.
If Arafat doesn't want to be a team player, then he can sit quietly on the bench fuming over his withdrawal from the spotlight. But Chechens, and those supporting them, surely don't need him in the game, sabotaging progress towards alleviating their pain and suffering.
Next on the chopping block is the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). It has toothlessly gummed its way forward on the issue. This week an Iranian-led OIC delegation will tour refugee camps in Ingushetia and Daghestan. This move comes after the delegation announced, as did Arafat, that the issue of Chechnya is a Russian domestic affair. Said Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi, "We recognize that the Chechen question is a question of Russian territorial integrity," as quoted by AFP on Dec 7.
If the OIC is satisfied with peeking in on refugees, only to confirm what they already know, fine. But Kharazi could have at least kept the aforementioned statement to himself. However when one takes into account the rapidly warming economic relationship between Russia and Iran, scenarios regarding Kharazi's motivations come into view.
There have been statements of condemnation issued by several Muslim nations. But for the most part, these have been predictable snippets of diplomatic rhetoric designed to fall in line with the prevailing rhetoric and action emanating from the non-Muslim world. And as most Muslims are aware, western nations have been slow to provide the requisite pressure upon Russia that will change the lot of the Chechen people.
The time for more strident leadership from the Muslim world has never been more overdue. And issues such as Chechnya -- and Kosova before it -- are easy diplomatic wins. There is no downside in standing against human rights violations. In fact, if Muslim leaders want to be self-serving, they could easily turn such situations into public relations coups. Why not that kind of individualistic behavior instead of playing "follow the leader with the West."
The game clock is running down on the Chechens. With a Russian ultimatum on the table, some 40,000 civilians stand to suffer in an all-out Russian onslaught on the Chechen capital of Grozny. With international outcry growing over the Dec 11 evacuation deadline for Grozny, a disaster just might be averted. And years from now, history texts will call the Chechen crisis another example of brinkmanship. But what if the Russians follow through?
May God have mercy on those with power and influence in the Muslim world who failed to stop such carnage.
Ali Asadullah is the Editor of iviews.com
Topics: Palestine, Russia, Yasser Arafat