Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Must Prevent Gastarbeiters from Spreading Islamist Radicalism in Russia, Suleymanov Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, December 30 – Central Asian gastarbeiters are introducing and spreading Islamist radicalism in many parts of the Russian Federation, and Moscow needs to take some extraordinary immediate measures or risk losing effective control over portions of the country, according to Rais Suleymanov.


            The APN.ru portal this week has posted Suleymanov’s article, “Migrants and Their Role in the dissemination of Radical Trends of Islam in Russia” from a collection of essays, “Ideological Opposition to Ethno-Religious Terrorism in Contemporary Russia” (in Russian; Saransk, 2014, pp. 65-94) (apn.ru/publications/article32901.htm).


            In this 8,000-word and heavily footnoted article, Suleymanov, a Kazan scholar who works for the influential Russian Institute for Strategic Studies and has been a frequent critic of Muslim leaders and Muslim republics, provides details on what he says is the threat that immigrant workers now pose.


            Suleymanov notes that many people think of migrant workers only as a source of crime, but the real threat they pose is as “bearers of radical trends in Islam.” Such people are now so numerous in many places that Russia may soon face “a situation when our villages will gradually be transformed into Central Asian kishlaks.”


            Moreover and still worse, Russia will soon find itself in a situation like the one France faces with Arabs: the rise of a second generation of immigrants born in Russia who combine the worst of all possible worlds: a commitment to Islamist values and the expectation arising from their Russian citizenship that they will nonetheless be treated with deference by the authorities.


            But most immediately, Suleymanov says, “the main danger” the gastarbeiters pose is that they are carrying out agitation and propaganda among Russia’s own indigenous Muslims and recruiting them as their allies in the struggle for the realization of their own radical Islamist goals.


            To meet these challenges, the RISI commentator offers six recommendations to the Russian government.  First, he says, Moscow must expand its cooperation with the special services of the Central Asian countries in order to gain their help in identifying and then blocking radicals from coming into Russia.


            Second, the Russian government needs to train and hire specialists on Islamist movements who can help the Federal Migrant Service identify and weed out the radicals.


            Third, Moscow needs to draw on the expertise of Russia’s own Muslims and make imams and mullahs responsible for monitoring and then countering Islamist radical propaganda on the territory of their parishes.

            Fourth, Moscow must “mobilize all government organs” to block “the colonization of rural population points by migrants, the formation by them of ethnic quarters in cities, and the active settlement of entire cities in the Far North.”  If it doesn’t, these will become centers for the spread of Islamist radicalism throughout the country.


            Fifth, Moscow must toughen its laws on religious extremism. Currently, according to Suleymanov, they are “extremely soft.” Indeed, he says, one of the reasons Islamist radicals come from Central Asian countries to Russia is that the laws against extremist are much tougher in their homelands than in the Russian Federation.


            And sixth, he concludes saying this is “the main thing,” Moscow must take radical steps to fight illegal immigration. Unless it gets that under control, Suleymanov says, it will be extremely difficult if not outright impossible for Moscow to prevent immigration from becoming a source of the destabilization of Russia.


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