Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Incarcerated Islamists Winning New Recruits in Russian Jails, Suleymanov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 4 – Radical Islamists who have been incarcerated for their actions often use their time in jail or prison camp to recruit new followers among their fellow prisoners, “often with greater success than when they were free,” according to a Kazan-based specialist on ethnicity and religion.

            Rais Suleymanov, the head of the Volga Center for Regional and Ethno-Religious Research and a frequent and controversial commentator on Islamic fundamentalism, says that imprisoned Islamic radicals are currently so successful in this regard that their activities are now “a threat to national security” (www.interfax-religion.ru/islam/?act=news&div=49130).

            He cites the case of Valery Ilmendeyev, a Chuvash who joined the Ulyanovsk jamaat about a decade ago, was convicted by a Russian court for his activities, and then was sent to a camp in Ulyanovsk Oblast.  But instead of being restrained by his conviction, Ilmendeyev became more active, Suleymanov says.

            “Without any particular difficulty, he conducted lectures in the prayer room of the camp, provided audio players for those who wanted to listen to the sermons of Said the Buryat, and disseminated both video tapes on “the Caucasus Imamate” and Wahhabist literature,” all of which was brought in “from outside the camp.”

            At first, Suleymanov says, “the camp administration did not devote any attention to the regular meetings of Ilemendeyev and his group, supposing that the prisoners involved were simply praying.” They did not even notice that he had established a council and had himself elected emir.

            In fact, the Kazan researcher says, “the colony was thereby transformed into a unique point for the ideological recruitment of new members of the ‘Caucasus Imamate.’” When the authorities finally recognized what was happening, they transferred Ilemendeyev to another camp, but one of his followers continued his work at the Ulyanovsk facility.

            According to members of the expert community, Suleymanov notes, “there have been frequent proposals about the need for the isolation of religious extremists from the rest of the prison population either by putting them in isolation cells or even creating a special colony” consisting only of those who are already part of this trend.

            The investigator says that “the popularity of Islamist fundamentalism among the criminal milieu [in the Russian Federation] is explained by the fact that Wahhabism rejects the social hierarchy” of the criminal world.  For its followers, he notes, there are no bosses and servants; there are “only ‘brothers.’”

            Of course, the Wahhabis are not the only group seeking to recruit prisoners.  According to a post on “V kontakte” from Sakha, “it is no secret that the FSB of Yakutia is seeking to recruit prisoners” who are Muslims to spy on other Muslims they know either in prison or beyond its walls (vk.com/club33212739?w=wall-33212739_2842).

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