Staunton, September 29 – Most Russian experts divide the Muslim population of their country into those who follow the mosque-based “traditional” Islam and are viewed as loyal and non-threatening and those who follow independent leaders who propagate radical versions and are viewed as a threat, Igor Dobayev says.
But while the latter are indeed a threat, the expert on the North Caucasus at the Southern Federal University and advisor to Russia’s National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAK) argues, so too are many within “traditional” Islam, a reflection of the diversity of that trend and one that affects Muslim communities far beyond the borders of the North Caucasus.
Consequently, he argues in a new article, Russian authorities may be deceiving themselves if they assume that traditional Islam is always good and that in areas like the Middle Volga where it has been historically dominant there are no reasons for concern (kavkazoved.info/images/myfls/2018/ap2018-97.pd, pp. 92-115).
Not only is “traditional” Islam far more diverse than many think, Dobayev continues, its variant in the North Caucasus has not been affected nearly as much by “the modernizing processes that have occurred in other ‘Muslim’ regions of Russia, above all, in the Middle Volga.”
And in the North Caucasus, the Muslim Spiritual Directorates (MSDs) have compounded this problem by shifting mullahs and imams from one parish to another, a process that in some cases has allowed for the spread of radical ideas to another rather than putting a stop to them altogether.
Given his involvement with the NAK, Dobayev’s argument may be yet another signal that the Russian authorities plan to impose tighter control on “traditional” Islam than they have in recent times lest radicalism within it prove to be an even greater or at least widespread threat than radicalism from those Moscow identifies as radicals now.
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