In fighting off a ruthless superpower bully, at a colossal cost, the Chechens have established that they have a tremendous sense of purpose. And now they prove that lurking behind that sense of purpose is great sense of humour and originality as well. How else can one explain their president’s decision to declare his country an Islamic Republic during his visit to Turkey, the headquarters of secularism in the Muslim world, and at a time when Islam-friendly leaders and party were put on trial?
President Aslan Maskhadov made his declaration in early November. The declaration was not an idle one since the government in Djohar-Gala (formerly Grozny) had already establishedShari’ah courts and introduced Islamic education in schools, following its victory over Russia in the bloody and ruinous 21-month long war of independence ending last year. And now, only days after Maskhadov’s statement, the vice president, Vakha Arsanov, issues a decree implementing the Islamic dress code.
The decree signed on November 10, orders all women in State employment to abide by the code and cover their hair in addition to wearing loose-fitting clothes over their arms and legs. Speaking on television the same day, the vice president said State administrators should enforce the new code or face dismissal.
For a country devasted by war, with its entire infrastructure in ruins, it takes great courage - a commodity the Chechens are not short of - and iman to declare an Islamic Republic. It will take a great deal of money to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, and finance for the ‘Marshall Plan’ needed for effective reconstruction will not be forthcoming from the west, which targets Islam as its foremost enemy, or the oil-rich Muslim countries for that matter.
Muslim dictators, despite their lip-service to Islam, fear Islamic activism or radicalism and are in no mood to encourage an eventual Islamic Revolution being carried out by the Chechens. Certainly, the former communists and KGB bigwigs that now rule the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, do not look kindly on the pro-Islamic enthusiasm of the Chechens.
President Maskhadov is aware of that when he declared an Islamic Republic during a visit to Turkey but he also knew that his people possess in abundance the courage and iman necessary to resist kufr machinations. After all, they had little else when they squared up to the ferocious and powerful Russian bear, chasing it out of their territory.
His Turkish hosts, who lack both the courage and iman, were stepping up their aggression against Islam as he made his announcement of further measures to establish Islamic rule in his country. In their desire to ape the west - and thereby be more acceptable in western councils like the European Union - they put the Refah Party and its leader Necmettin Erbarkan - on trial, accusing both of plotting to overthrow the country’s secular constitution and destroy its secular institutions.
The Turkish public prosecutor is asking the constitutional court to ban Refah on the grounds that it is a rallying point for ‘anti-secular activities.’ To prove this, which constitutes sufficient reason to close down the party, he quotes from speeches delivered by its leaders, including Erbakan, since Refah’s establishment in 1983. One such speech, delivered by Erbakan in 1991, described the party as an ‘Islamic jihad’ - enough justification in the eyes of the morbidly anti-Islamic generals to ban it.
The prosecutor is also demanding Erbakan to be banned from politics for a period of five years. The generals hope that by ending his political career, the new party Refah members are threatening to establish following a ban, will not have Erbakan’s charisma at its disposal.
A decision by the 11-member court to close down Refah will enable it to ban its leader from politics altogether. Turkish public opinion does not appear to be much exercised about this. After all, Turkish courts have closed down parties led by Erbakan twice before; and it is an open secret that members of the court - whose decision will not be known before the end of this month - will rubber-stamp whatever the generals dictate.
The Refah leader, who knows perfectly well how the judicial system works, called on November 24 on his colleagues to step up the preparation for setting up another party - Refah under another name - saying that although it was not easy to ban a party with four million registered members, it was wise to be ready.
On the very same day, prime minister Mesut Yilmaz rushed to Italy and Spain. His purpose was to press on their leaders to persuade the meeting of EU foreign ministers at Brussels later in the day to make a decision to include Turkey in the list of 11 countries the organization plans to invite for discussing possible future membership.
The EU meeting rose without making the requested decision. Turkey again has been left high and dry. And Yilmaz will be well advised to take lessons from Maskhadov on how to acquire courage and iman to achieve ones objectives - provided, of course, those objectives are correct. Europe, after all, needs Turkey more than Turkey needing Europe.
Muslimedia: December 1-15, 1997