Thursday, December 27, 2018

Moscow’s Pyrrhic Victory in Discrediting Shariat Court on Ingush-Chechen Border Dispute

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 26 – Moscow, in its efforts to support the border accord between Ingushetia’s Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov, has had some success in discrediting the idea that a Muslim court has any right to take up a case that the Russian Constitutional Court has already decided.

            A survey of Chechens finds that most of them accept Moscow’s argument (, and another of some of the alims in Ingushetia finds the same thing (; but Moscow’s victory, if that is what it is, appears likely to be Pyrrhic because Moscow has overreached in exploiting the regional super-MSD.

            Islamicist Aleksey Grishin shows that the document the Coordinating Center for Muslims of the North Caucasus adopted last week condemning the use of a shariat in this case was clearly prepared not by Muslims but by Moscow political technologists (

                Entitling his article “Bees Against Honey?” Grishin argues that no mufti would have drafted such a document – the language simply isn’t consistent with Muslim practice – or signed it – given that is not how the Muslim Spiritual Directorates (MSD) of the republics function within the Coordinating Center.

            The muftis were clearly under government pressure to sign, he says; and while he doesn’t approve of this, he “will not condemn them. The world is too complicated and not everyone is capable of heroic action.  But personally,” Grishin says, he feels “closer to Giordano Bruno” than to those who go along with whatever the government wants at the cost of their faith.

            Many others in the North Caucasus are likely to feel the same, and to the extent that they do, Moscow may get its wish on this shariat court case but only at the cost of completely undermining the authority of the muftis in the republics and the Coordinating Center on which it has chosen to rely in the past.

            That could open the way for more radicalism in the region, exactly the reverse of what the powers that be either in the region or in Moscow want. At the very least, this naked display of state power will do nothing to win over Muslims in Ingushetia and elsewhere who feel that their interests have been ignored.

            Meanwhile, over the last two days, there have been three other developments linked to the Ingush-Chechen border controversy:

·         Magistrates have opened a case on the kidnaping of the Amnesty International staffer in Ingushetia, an action Yevkurov continues to say was “a provocation” against him (

·         Authorities in St. Petersburg have dropped charges against the 17-year-old who put up a sign on the Akhmed Kadyrov bridge in the northern capital decalring that the structure “belongs to Ingushetia,” quite possibly in order not to attract additional attention to the dispute in the North Caucasus (

·         And Yevkurov saw his rating among governors fall further than anyone else over the last few months, by 68 percent since the start of the border controversy. As a result, RBC reports, he is the most unpopular governor in the Russian Federation (

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