Sunday, July 3, 2016

North Caucasus Muftis Back Yarovaya Laws; Middle Volga Ones Oppose Them

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 3 – Muslim leaders in the North Caucasus generally back the Yarovaya laws because they face the greatest challenge from Islamist radicals and thus see the restrictions the new laws impose as helping the official Muslim establishment retain its position in society, according to Daniyal Isayev.

            But Muslim leaders in the Middle Volga in contrast generally oppose those restrictive laws, the OnKavkaz journalist says, because their authority rests “precisely on an open formal of religious work with the population and open cooperation with young preachers” (

            Of course, there are exceptions to this pattern. In the Middle Volga, he says, regime loyalists like Talgat Tadzhutdin and Albir Krganov back the Yarovaya laws, while “in the North Caucasus, there are muftis who do not fear competition from the side of the young generation of Muslim leaders and seek to strengthen their own Muslim Spiritual Directorates in that way.”

            But the division, one that parallels the more familiar distinction between the modernist/reformist Muslims of the Middle Volga and the more conservative Muslims of the North Caucasus, highlights the problems Moscow is going to have if it seeks to impose the Yarovaya laws with their “one size fits all” approach in both places.

            In support of his conclusions, Isayev quotes in detail the views of muftis and other Muslim religious leaders in the two regions.  In the Middle Volga, Saratov Mufti Mukaddas Bibarsov has been sharply critical of the Yarovaya packet’s restrictions on missionary activity, arguing that Russia already has sufficient laws to counter radicalism.

            Bibarsov also expressed concern that the law had been drafted, discussed and passed without any consultations with Muslim or other religious leaders. He called on all those concerned about religious freedom to appeal directly to President Vladimir Putin to veto this legislation.

             Tatarstan Mufti Kamil Samigullin has taken an equally tough stand against the measure, but his words, originally posted on the website of his Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) ( were taken down, although not before they were reposted by a variety of other religious and news portals. (Isayev provides a screenshot of the mufti’s words.)

            The situation in the North Caucasus is very different: muftis there either support the measure or say nothing, a form of passive acquiescence.  And none of their statements for the measure have been removed from the web, a clear indication of Moscow’s approval of what they are saying as opposed to its disapproval of what the Middle Volga muftis are, Isayev says.

            Daghestani Mufti Akhmad Abdullayev has been especially supportive. He says that the “’anti-terrorist’” amendments in no way “violate the rights of Muslims,” adding that “the overwhelming majority of Russia’s Muslims should not be upset” about the restrictions because they are restrictions against radicalism and terrorism.

            The Yarovaya packet’s measures restricting religious practice “outside special institutions will bring order to religious activity,” Abdullayev says, and “it would be correct to limit the ambitions of the false servants of religion” who now operate beyond the walls of officially registered mosques.

            Up to now, Isayev continues, “the remaining muftis of the republics of the North Caucasus are keeping quiet about this disputed package of amendments which limit missionary activity including by the traditional confessions.” Given the objections of the Middle Volga muftis, one can only conclude that this represents a form of “silent support” for the measures.

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