Who will win gold at Sochi?
by Abdul Cader Asmal
Prior to the Marathon Day bombing in Boston on April 15 2013, few Americans had heard about Chechnya and fewer would have been concerned about its past or future. The outrage of most Americans was due to the fact that two Chechen brothers (who had been provided asylum in the US) had hideously turned against their benefactor and conducted an act of inexplicable terrorism. Thus the lens that the Chechen brothers provided to the American public was one of yet another band of ‘Islamist’ terrorists emerging from a part of the world disconnected from the usual suspects. Nonetheless, they brought notoriety to the Chechens in general and reinforced the image of Islam as the global cesspool of terrorism.
If it had been their goal to bring to the attention of the world the historically brutal subjugation of the Chechen people for over 150 years by Russia, the unanswered questions were and are, why had they picked on the US to vent their hatred, how could an act of carnage help propagate any sympathy for their cause, and why impugn the name of Islam when their struggle was primarily a separatist one? With these questions still begging an answer, a band of Chechen mobsters now threatens to hold the whole world hostage by their promise of causing mayhem at the winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
Having a captive audience, one would imagine that the Chechen leadership, if such an entity exists, would exploit the opportunity to showcase the unbearable humiliation and suffering they had endured at the hands of the Russians: from the genocide of Chechens during the Caucasian War; to the ethnic cleansing of virtually the entire population of Chechnya to Siberia by Stalin; to the Second Chechen war orchestrated by Vladimir Putin, opposed to a breakaway Chechen Republic. In response to the warfare, Secretary of State Albright noted: ‘We cannot ignore the fact that thousands of Chechen civilians have died and more than 200,000 have been driven from their homes. The war in Chechnya has greatly damaged Russia’s international standing and is isolating Russia from the international community.’ Wikipedia.
Notwithstanding the protracted war of attrition, the Chechens’ resolve to secede from Russia has remained unabated, and with the influence of AlQaeda, previously lionized as the ‘mujahideen’ who had brought the invincible Soviet Union to its knees, their campaign for separation transformed from a religio-nationalistic one to one with sinister religious overtones in which Chechens have sought a ‘jihadist’ justification for their mindless acts of terrorism.
Whether the threats to wreak mayhem on the Olympic Games are idle, or executed, the Chechen instigators will forever be remembered as the terrorists who won the battle of Sochi, lost the war for Chechnya, and made Islam a global pariah. On the other hand if the would-be terrorists announced that their primary objective was to bring focus on the intolerable situation of the Chechens to a worldwide audience, and that they would henceforth renounce the use of terrorism, this would be win-win situation for all.
Such an act of magnanimity is deeply rooted in the Qur’anic injunction, 55:60, ’Is the reward of goodness aught save goodness itself? ’
Those on the sidelines should reinforce Dr. King’s exhortation, ’Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’. This truism is one both Chechens and Russians need to live with, and while practicing Muslims, broad-brushed as ‘Islamist terrorists’, are unlikely to see a change in their status quo, it behooves them and the rest of the world to ensure its application. Should the Games be an unqualified success, Putin will claim Gold; the Olympians, Silver; and the ‘would-be terrorists ‘ end up as scrap metal in the dustbin of history.
God forbid, should the Games be marred by any act of ‘Islamist terror’ (Muslim on non-Muslim violence), taken in conjunction with the Muslim on Muslim atrocities in Syria, and the genocide of the unheard of Rohingya Muslims by Buddhist extremists in Myanmar they will all come together, under the pretext of eradicating ‘terrorism’, to generate an open season for the indiscriminate targeting of Muslims the world over.
Abdul Cader Asmal MD FRCP. Co-chairman of Communications, Islamic Council of New England