Muslims might disagree with Taliban on a host of its policies, both foreign and domestic; however there should be no disagreement with the Taliban concerning its recent policy moves with reference to Chechnya.
To recap for the less well informed, a Chechen delegation led by Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev has been in Afghanistan for the past week speaking with the Taliban. On Jan 16, the Taliban announced that it recognizes the sovereignty of Chechnya and that the two nations would establish diplomatic relations. On Jan 21, the Taliban announced additionally that Chechnya would soon establish an embassy in Afghanistan and that Chechens would receive Taliban backing in their independence struggle against Russia.
Bravo Taliban, Bravo.
Finally someone has stood up and done what should have happened months ago when Russia began its military push into the Caucasus. It is commendable that Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries have sent aid to Chechen refugees in Ingushetia, but had they instead taken a firm stance as has the Taliban, possibly all the death and destruction in Chechnya could have been avoided.
Some would argue that international diplomatic and economic relations force other Muslim countries into less visible roles in aiding their Chechen brethren. But excuses related to such external factors don't bring back the lives of women and children who died while cowering under a barrage of Russian artillery fire. These excuses don't rebuild cities that now lie literally in rubble.
Yes, the Taliban is a maverick militia that enjoys diplomatic relations with only Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. But if that empowers it to lend support where it is needed and rightly warranted, then maybe the world needs a few more mavericks.
History is an iterative process of consensus building. Political and economic alignments rise, flourish, decline and crumble. What applies today might not necessarily apply tomorrow. Today's mavericks become tomorrow's superpowers. And driving this process is nothing more than consensus. There are no hard and fast rules of justice and decorum that seem to apply. It all boils down to rallying enough support for your position and forcing others to recognize your strength and the strength of your coalition.
At present there is little consensus in the Muslim world. Despite catastrophes in Chechnya, Indonesia, Kashmir and a host of other hotspots, Muslim leaders continue to prefer the Western-dominated consensus building process currently popular in international relations. The result is that East Timor can be free, Kosova can be autonomous, but Chechnya has to suffer. To counter this, the Taliban have simply initiated a different paradigm of consensus building.
For those familiar with the 1948 Humphrey Bogart movie Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the famous scene in which Mexican bandits take Bogart's character into custody despite not being officers of the law seems to apply to the Taliban's methodology. Say the Bandits, "Badges, we don't need no stinking badges."
Such maverick behavior frightens those with vested interests in the current consensus. But like it or not, a change could be on the horizon. It is a simple matter of consensus. Consider the impact of diplomatic recognition amongst all the fragmented, embattled Muslim regions of the world. What if Chechnya, Daghestan, Ingushetia, Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Xian Jiang, Kelatan, Ambon and Mindanao all recognized one another?
As insignificant as these regions seem as independent states pursuing disparate, self-serving agendas, they would force the hand of the rest of the Muslim world if they were diplomatic partners. It is a provocative proposition indeed. [As a side note, considering the geographical positioning of these regions, one might be tempted to call it "The Coming of the Crescent."]
Regardless of whether such a "crescent of diplomacy" comes about, Muslims should mark this week's events in Afghanistan in their memories. For the Taliban has taken an important step towards saving Chechen lives, gaining political and diplomatic legitimacy and preparing the Muslim world for new paradigm of international relations.
Ali Asadullah is the Editor of iviews.com