Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Korovin’s Proposal to Create Islamist Enclave in Highland Chechnya Savagely Disparaged

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 26 – Two weeks ago, Valery Korovin, head of the Moscow Center for Geopolitical Expertise and a member of the Russian Social Chamber, suggested that Russia set up an autonomous enclave in highland Daghestan where Muslims could live according to the principles of the most traditional forms of Islam.

            Such an enclave, Korovin argued, would attract those who otherwise might be tempted to join forces with ISIS by providing them with a place where the rules of the time of the Prophet could be enforced and thus promote Russian national security by reducing the number of Russian citizens fighting on behalf of the Islamic State (skfonews.info/news/6216).

            Not surprisingly, his proposal has been dismissed as absurd and dangerous not only by the Chechen leadership which suggests such a step would undo much of what Grozny has achieved in the counter-terrorist direction (kavkazgeoclub.ru/content/leopardy-kadyrova-protiv-teokraticheskogo-anklava), but also by Russian commentators.
            The most outspoken of these has been Rais Suleymanov of Kazan’s Institute of National Strategy, who has won both support and widespread criticism for his frequent attacks on Muslims in the Russian Federation and abroad. He describes Korovin’s proposal as “preposterous” (kavkazgeoclub.ru/content/eto-prosto-kakoe-nelepoe-predlozhenie).

            He suggests that Korovin is simply trying to acquire the mantle of defender of Islam in the Social Chamber now that Maksim Shevchenko, who earlier called for such a special enclave, is no longer a member and that the most likely reason for his remarks is that he is testing the waters for somewhat less radical concessions to the Muslim community in Russia.

            Korovin, Suleymanov suggests, is repeating not only what Shevchenko and his allies said earlier but also what “respectable scholars like Aleksey Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center and Leonid Syukiyainen of the Higher School of Economics have said about the desirability of allowing one or another region in the Caucasus to adopt shariat law.

            Their proposals have gone nowhere, the Kazan commentator says, and neither will Korovin’s.  It won’t “solve the Islamic question in Russia,” as the Social Chamber member imagines. And anyone who thinks it might should ask himself whether setting up a special territory in Russia for the free use of drugs or the holding of gay parades would be a good thing.

            Members of the Social Chamber, he continues, “should have an understanding of the civilizational unity of Russia one must not set up separate enclaves on a religious basis.” Not only does that contradict Russia’s history and constitution, but it raises the question of how the country could possibly control them.

            And they should remember that there was a case in recent Russian history where four auls in the Buinaksk region of Daghestan lived according to Wahhabi principles in 1998-1999. “We know how that worked out,” Suleymanov says; and there is no reason to assume that a repetition of such an enclave would not lead to the same outcomes.

            “If [Muslims] really don’t want to live in a secular Russian stat according to secular laws, then the best choice for those who are supporters of ‘pure Islam’ is to emigrate from Russia and move to Muslim countries,” the Kazan writer continues.  “No force is necessary.” Just “buy a ticket and pack your suitcase.” Many have done so, he points out.

            Speaking about the future development of the Islamic community in Russia, Suleymanov says that there is no reason to expect any “innovations.” Instead, “the state will continue to orient itself toward those Islamic trends with which it has had long-term partnership relations, toward those which are loyal to the Russian state, and to those which don’t get involved in politics.”

            Those Muslims who violate one or another of these provisions, including the ban on taking part in political life as some in Ingushetia and Daghestan now have, can expect a lot of problems ahead, Suleymanov concludes.

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