Monday, March 27, 2017

Russia’s Muslims Must Take Advantage of Latest Protest Upsurge, Golos Islama Commentator Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 27 – While Aleksey Navalny and his colleagues are “no less enemies” of Russia’s Muslims than the Putin regime, the new upsurge in street protests in Russia that the opposition politician is promoting is something the Islamic community should take advantage of to advance its own agenda, Ikramutdin Khan says.

            “If in Russia a real street battle begins and the regime is shaken and the political space of the country begins to be formed a new, this creates for the Islamic movement a window of opportunities which it would be criminal not to make use of, the Golos Islama commentator continues (

            That is because, Khan argues, “when this period ends, and it will end after several years, all the social-political space again shared out without Muslims who will remain on its periphery, as marginals and the targets of suppression by the siloviki.”

            “Therefore,” he says, “without putting any hopes in Navalny personally or the entire Islamophobic leadership of the opposition, passionate Muslims now must morally and ideologically prepare themselves to “get into the came” with their own agenda when that becomes necessary – and to demand their own rights when they do.”

            It is unclear just how much Khan speaks for the 20 million plus Muslims of the Russian Federation or how much influence he has, but his words, coming just after the street protests across Russia, add a new complexity to the situation.

            On the one hand, if Muslims do move into the streets in order to press their case against Moscow, that will create a nightmare for the Kremlin not only in the North Caucasus but in the Middle Volga and elsewhere and for the Russian opposition which indeed has been as Russia and Moscow centric as the Putin regime.

But on the other, the Kremlin may seek to exploit any such Muslim protests to rally ethnic Russians around itself.  That is especially likely if the Putin regime can suggest that all Muslim protests are by its definition about secession and thus a threat to the territorial integrity of the country.

In this context, two new articles about Russia’s Muslim community offer some important inclusions. In the first, Carnegie Moscow Center expert Aleksey Malashenko says that “traditional Islam” – the mosque-limited variety the Russian regime prefers – has exhausted itself in Tatarstan (

To the extent that he is correct, that conclusion suggests that even in the most “traditional” Muslim region of the Russian Federation, independent and often more politically radical Muslim leaders are in the ascendance in terms of influence over the Islamic community there.

In the second, Anton Chablin, a prominent specialist on the North Caucasus, says that many in the expert community are convinced that the ISIS attacks in Chechnya are not isolated incidents and may be repeated and that young Muslims across the region are increasingly politicized and radicalized (

Such people would seem to be ideal recruits for any Muslim street demonstrations, but they also would make ideal “scarecrows” to frighten non-Muslims in Russian into concluding that any Muslim political activity is linked in some way to Islamic radicalism abroad in the Middle East.

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