Friday, February 14, 2020

Kalimatov Meets with Islamic Theologians, Ingush Students at Bolgar Islamic Academy

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 9 – Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov, the head of Ingushetia who has kept his distance from the Muslim establishment in his own republic which his subordinates have sought to suppress, visited the Bolgar Islamic Academy in Tatarstan where he serves on the board of directors and met with seven Ingush Muslims who are studying there.

            Three things make this meeting and Kalimatov’s participation in the BIA potentially very significant First of all, despite his standoffish position with the Muslim hierarchy in Ingushetia, the Ingush head showed by his participatin that he places much greater confidence in the two Islamic higher schools there than in the republic Muslim hierarchy and is taking a longer view.

            Second, Sergey Kiriyenko, the first deputy chairman of the Presidential Administration, told the group that Vladimir Putin supports the BIA and sees it as a key element in the restoration of the traditional domestic Islamic theological school. And third, Kalimatov was joined by the heads of the other Muslim republics of the North Caucasus and the Middle Volga.

            Each of these things matter and suggest that the Kremlin may have decided that the best way to move Islam in Russia in the way it wants is to promote Islamic education as at BIA rather than get involved in the internecine quarrels of the Muslim spiritual directorates (MSDs) as it has in the past. Kalimatov, of course, will follow that line without deviation.

            And even more important, at least for Ingushetia and the North Caucasus, this meeting indicates that Moscow wants the Muslims of the North Caucasus, who have typically been more radical and mystical than those of the Middle Volga, to follow the Tatarstan school rather than develop their own.

            On the one hand, the BIA and the involvement of North Caucasus heads like Kalimatov could push Islam in that region away from sufism and radicalism; but on the other, Moscow’s tilt toward the Middle Volga version of Islam sets the stage for new clashes in Ingushetia, Daghestan and Chechnya in particular.

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