Staunton, October 20 – Speaking to an MGIMO conference, orientalist Akhmet Yarlykapov said that since the end of the 1980s, the historically Islamic population of Russia had been undergoing not the rebirth of Islam but rather because the Soviets had destroyed Islamic institutions and practices, “re-Islamization.”
The specialist on the North Caucasus added that one of the reasons for the growing strength of Islam among them is that the secular state has not been able to find a way to address its most important problems, including the allocation of land which is in increasingly short supply, forcing Muslims to turn to shariat and adat for answers.
But his most provocative argument – and Yarlykapov admits that it is provocative – was that the Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of Daghestan and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov are now locked in a battle for supremacy not just in the North Caucasus but among Muslims across the Russian Federation (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/326857/).
“In this sense,” he continues, “the North Caucasus is seeking to occupy in the Muslim community at the all-Russian level leading positions which up until now have been occupied by Tatar religious leaders.”
Yarlykapov notes that “the MSD of Daghestan now is actively involved in the struggle for leadership in the Russian umma. Its newspaper As-salam currently is disseminated throughout Russia. In all regions, the Daghestani muftiate is active.” It even is cooperating with Muslims in Tatarstan.
At the same time, Chechnya’s Kadyrov is “the second force in this struggle for leadership among Russian Muslims, even though publicly the head of Chechnya has not declared such ambitions. “But the reality is that he is taking part in this struggle.”
Kadyrov and his supporters actively use the Internet, develop contacts with local Muslim leaders throughout the country and provide help to local Muslim communities.” He is winning support and sympathy among them and also among Muslims abroad. Significantly, Kadyrov has supporters even among part of the Salafis whom the MSD of Daghestan is fighting.
The Daghestani muftiate, Yarlykapov continues, “is limited by the fact that its imams are many Sufis … [while] Kadyrov on the other hand maintains broad contacts which are not limited by the Sufis and official muftiates. Now among certain groups of Salafis, there is the view that what he is doing is useful for the umma and worthy of support.”
The orientalist says that “’the Daghestani project’” may have been “initiated” by Moscow, “but Ramzan Kadyrov is acting informally.” That too may give him certain advantages in his effort to speak for all of Russia’s Muslims.
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