Friday, May 20, 2016

Sufis May Use Anti-Corruption Movement to Win Elections and Come to Power in Daghestan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 20 – The leaders of the Sufi trend in Islam now dominate the People Against Corruption Movement in Daghestan and may succeed in using it not only to overwhelm the nominal opposition parties (KPRF, Just Russia, LDPR, and Right Task) but even to challenge the ruling United Russia party for dominance in the republic’s legislature.

            Indeed, the possibility that this could happen is now so great that an aide to republic head Ramazan Abdulatipov has just urged Moscow to intervene and use all “administrative measures” to prevent an ostensibly secular party from gaining power and introducing a religious program in the Russian Federation’s most Muslim republic.

            And such calls, the result of a failed effort by the Makhachkala government to coopt the the Sufi establishment and thus build support for its policies, point to the danger of a serious clash between the secular authorities and the Sufis, a clash that in Daghestan at least the latter would be likely to win.

           Nadzhmudin Aliyev, a Daghestan expert, begins his discussion of this complex and for Moscow and Makhachkala dangerous situation by pointing out that the leader of the People Against Corruption movement, Abudlla Apayev, is a Sufi divine and member of the Muslim ulema ( Cf.

            Apayev, he notes, is the son of the Sufi leader who was killed in August 2012. He heads the same wird, a basic organization of the Sufi community, and as suchhe enjoys widespread influence not only in the population but among many Daghestanis in the republic’s government organs and political parties and beyond the borders of that republic as well.

            The appearance of a religious leader as head of a political party in Daghestan is no surprise, Aliyev says. Indeed, given how religious that North Caucasus republic is, it would be a surprise if there were no such leaders. But for the last 15 years or so, most who have entered politics have sought to maintain a divide between their “secular” and “religious” positions.

            Apayev has broken with that tradition and used his “secular” party to mobilize Daghestanis on the basis of religious values, including opposition to radical income differentiation and corruption. And that has infuriated the current leadership of the republic which obviously feels threatened.

            Republic head Abdulatipov, according to the local press, has “’unambiguously given to understand’ that he does not want to see representatives of the Muslim clergy in politics,” because he believes that “’the clergy should occupy itself with its tasks and the secular power with its.’”
          Abdulatipov’s advisor Denga Khalidov has exampled on this. In a speech at Daghestan State University, he made it clear that the secular authorities view “the use of the mobilizational and lobbying possibilities” of the Muslim leadership in politics negatively and consider many of the candidates such people have offered “unqualified.”

            Given that the People Against Corruption movement is being used by the Muslim elite, he continued, Moscow should decide whether that group has the right to take part in elections. “In other words,” according to Aliyev, Khalidov views “the Daghestani muftiate as a shadowy sgtructure which is shamelessly manipulating the feelings of the believing Daghestani masses.”

            And from these words, “it logically follows,” Aliyev suggests, that in Khalidov’s view, “the secular authorities must use to the maximum their administrative resources so that the People Against Corruption movement won’t” win a majority of seats, a view Khalidov presented as well at a meeting in Moscow on April 28.

            “Sufism in Daghestan,” Aliyev says, “is a powerful social force which in fact has powerful mobilizational resources at its disposal.” That is why the authorities as early as 1990 sought “’a non-aggression pact’” between the sufi leadership and the state, a pact that has now broken down.

           Some in the government would like to renew that pact, but there are two major problems. On the one hand, there is no guarantee that the Sufis would go along: they are too confident of their position in society, want more than they were given 25 years ago at the end of Soviet times, and would have discussions in various places that could rapidly get out of control.

            And on the other, there is evidence that the Sufis and their leaders are far more popular than the current Makhachkala government. In an informal poll taken by the republic newspaper “Chernovik,” the sufi candidate defeated the incumbent governor for the no longer existing post of Popular President of Daghestan, 23,000 votes to 617.
          The upcoming elections in Daghestan bear watching not only because of what may happen there but because if a de facto religious party wins out, other Muslim and non-Muslim groups may decide to pursue the same path to power and to demand that religious parties in Russia again be legal.

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