Staunton, September 21 – Aleksey Grishin, head of the Religion and Society Center, says that 40 percent of all of Russia’s Muslims are “infected with radicalism” and that in some reasons what he calls their “Wahhabization” affects 80 percent of their number because Wahhabi organizations have been established in “all regions of Russia except Chukotka.”
Grishin suggests that there are four reasons for the current upsurge in radicalization: the formation of the Islamic State, mistakes by poorly trained Russian officials, a new focus by radicals abroad on Russia, and the impact of radicalized gastarbeiters from Central Asia on Muslim institutions in Russia (blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=4&id=64335).
The process of radicalization of Russia’s Muslims has been going on for some time, Grishin says, noting that over the last seven or eight years, many Muslim leaders who have opposed it have been killed but their deaths have not deterred the radicals from pursuing their “goal” of “establishing complete control via the existing Muslim Spiritual Directorates (MSDs).”
The radicals’ task has been easier by the proliferation of MSDs: there are now 81 “and possibly there will be even more.” The situation is disturbing: there are five in Sverdlovsk and two in a single village in Tatarstan. And that means that if the radicals cannot win one place, they can do so in another.
Moreover, the Muslim affairs specialist says, the MSDs have opened the way for this radicalization because in many cases they have become “’commercial enterprises’” which compete among themselves, not to mention the fact that the two “oldest” structures, the Council of Muftis of Russia and the Central MSD fight with one another.
The Russian government is not capable of controlling “such a quantity of MSDs,” he says. But the government’s problem is not limited to quantity: “there is in fact no one who can control them.” There is a lack of expertise at all levels of the Russian government, including in the Presidential Administration because Moscow has not promoted the necessary training.
Muslim educational institutions are corrupt, engage in commercial activities, and are thus easy prey for the radicals, who benefit even when the secular authorities contest them. That is because the failure of Muslim schools in Russia allows the radicals to promote the idea that “a quality Islamic education can be received only abroad.”
Grishin says that the situation with regard to Islamist media is especially troubling. According to Russian law enforcement agencies, there are now some 57,000 websites directed at Russia’s Muslims. 50,000 of them are supposed to be blocked but “a significant part of them,” he says, hasn’t even been identified let alone blocked.
In recent times, Grishin continues, Islamist radicals have adopted two new tactics against which the Russian authorities seem powerless: They have been recruiting among the staff of Russia’s special services and law enforcement organs; and they have been themselves arrested so that they can propagandize radical Islam in Russian prisons.
Moscow needs to respond to this upsurge of radicalism by training better government specialists on Islam, “unifying” the approach of all regions so that the radicals cannot play one off against another, develop better criteria of what constitutes radicalism, block the efforts of Islamists to recruit siloviki, and “clean the Augean stables of the MSDs.”
To oversee this effort, Grishin says, Russia must establish “a single state organ for relations with religious organizations, a ministry ‘for religious affairs’ or a special subdivision of the Presidential Administration” with real powers to act. Otherwise, he suggests, radicalization of Russia’s Muslims is likely to continue to expand.