Staunton, October 5 – As the number of Muslims imprisoned in Russia has increased, the number of violent clashes and their intensity between them and other prisoners, on the one hand, and the penal authorities, on the other, have increased, especially as the Islamic community behind bars seeks to have its dietary and other requirements respected.
Just how explosive the situation has become is suggested by an URA agency report today concerning an appeal by non-Muslim prisoners who insist that there be only one way of life for prisoners and that the Muslims must not have any special privileges like avoiding pork or bathing while partially dressed (ura.news/articles/1036272482).
Such exceptions to the rules, the authors of the appeal say, not only exacerbate relations between Muslims and others but encourage other groups to make demands. But they argue that the penal authorities are so frightened of the Muslims that they have conceded to many of their demands. As a result, the term “green camp” now refers to areas Muslim prisoners control.
There have been clashes and even deaths between Muslims and the others, the penal authorities say. And Mikhail Orsky, a specialist on prison culture, says that the rise of Muslim prisoners has reduced the salience of divisions among other groups of prisoners and led to the dominance in some prisons and camps of Russian nationalists.
In Russian prisons and camps, the news agency reports, “jamaats (Islamic societies) are forming which enter into conflicts with prison norms because for the Muslims, there are no authorities besides Allah. In addition, they actively recruit into their ranks new supporters [and] there are cases when Slavs as well as drawn into Islam.”
According to Orsky, that sets them apart from other criminals who do not seek power. “The thieves are outside of politics in contrast to the Wahhabis. Therefore,” he says, “it is obvious whom the authorities must support.” The jailors must back the thieves against “’the greens’” or risk losing control.
If they don’t do so, he continues, then the Muslim prisoners will leave the prisons or camps as fully-formed Wahhabis and “in 15 to 20 years, we will have a situation in which the current state of things in Belgium or France will seem child’s play.”
One way to combat Islamic extremism in Russian penal institutions is to invite traditional Muslim leaders to visit and provide services for the Islamic community behind the walls. But that tactic sometimes breaks down when jailors decide that local imams and mullahs are themselves extremists.
However, unless the traditional Muslim leaders are allowed in, observers say, the Muslim prisoners will promote their own mullahs – and these in almost every case are radicals who quickly radicalize others. Jailors fear that the situation, which has already led to outbursts of lethal violence and radicalism will only get worse as the number of Muslim prisoners rises.