Staunton, April 6 – Islam has spread by adapting successfully to local cultural traditions, but this has given rise again and again to conflicts between those local communities and others who seek to promote a common purity that in fact never existed, Yefim Rezvan, deputy director of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The promoters of the pure side are now called Salafis and are generally viewed as the source of extremism and conflict, but in fact, the Islamicist says, “not all Salafis by definition are jihadists and not all supporters of Sufi national trends [within Islam] are necessarily peace-loving” (dfnc.ru/yandeks-novosti/salafitskaya-sinusoida-xxi-vek/).
In an interview published in the current issue of Novy oborony zakaz, a publication directed toward the Russian military and defense industry, Rezvan says that this conflict, present at all times in the history of Islam has been intensified in recent years as a result of changes in the world, including in Russia.
The existing economic and political system does not take into consideration “the financial and economic possibilities of the Islamic world, and Islamic countries are not represented in the real ‘elite clubs’ like the Security Council and the G-7,” Rezvan says. As a result, many Muslims feel insulted and want to develop their own “alternative” arrangements like ISIS.
Moreover, “after the collapse of the USSR and the discrediting of communism as an ideology, another alternative to capitalism disappeared. The latter, because it did not face competition, moved toward a harsh formation of humanity and of each individual in particular.” Naturally that generated a countervailing response, including Salafi Islam.
Indeed, Rezvan says, “in the absence of a countervailing civilizational model, the ideological vacuum is being filled by ‘the black international,’” a development Russia in the same way as other countries is both opposing and seeking to exploit against its national opponents.
Adding power to the rise of Salafism now, the scholar continues, are demographic changes in the Muslim world like rising birthrates and falling mortality rates, which puts pressure on governments to ensure that there are enough jobs and upward mobility to absorb these populations. In many cases, they have failed to do so.
And the universal spread of the Internet and social networks “has led to the rise of an unprecedented technological foundation for self-organization and the propaganda of all extremist organizations.” The most powerful are those who advocate social justice, overcoming economic inequality and an end to the exploitation of the global South by the global North.