Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
February 28, 2000 | Anonymous
Washington, DC-area Muslims rallied outside the military attachÃ© office of the Russian Embassy on Dec. 3. Organized by the Muslim Coalition for Justice, the event attracted a long list of sponsors including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the American Muslim Council (AMC), and the Muslim Students’ Association of the USA and Canada.
Within a short period, the small group grew to a crowd of more than 50 Muslims — all shouting in unison, “What do we want? Peace and justice. When do we want it? Now.” A number of speakers and leaders of the local Muslim community addressed the crowd; speaking most eloquently and passionately was Imam Johari Abdul Malik, the Muslim chaplain at Howard University. In addition to condemning Russia’s brutal acts of aggression, Imam Johari drew a stunning parallel between the present situation of the Chechen people and the early American settlers. “Just as America grew out of wanting its freedom and independence from the Europeans, so Chechnya wants its freedom from Russia,” he said.
The current Russian campaign against the Chechens is the latest episode of the 199496 war, which resulted in the shrinking of the resident Chechen population from 1.2 million to only 800,000. Since October 1999, more than 200,000 Muslims have fled the region — making for a humanitarian crisis of the highest proportions. In the words of an Islamic Circle of North America Relief spokesman, “the depopulation of Chechnya makes for a human tragedy that is far worse than the Russian name of its capital, Grozny, which means “terrible.”