Staunton, September 26 – For the last three months, Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov has been engaged in a very high-profile campaign against witches and fortune tellers in his republic, an effort experts say is intended to show that he is in total control of the situation and to boost his popularity among Muslims who reject such practices, two experts say.
Aleksey Malashenko, a researcher on Islam at Moscow’s Dialogue of Civilizations Institute, says that by this campaign, the Chechen regime which “in fact” is totalitarian wants to “extend its influence not only in the sphere of traditional Islam but also in the occult sphere” (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/340567/).
But Akhmet Yarlykapov of the MGIMO Center for the Study of the Problems of the Caucasus disputes that. He says that Kadyrov isn’t trying to take control of the occult but rather “to cleanse the Islamic space from those who might be beyond the control” of traditional Muslims and win support from them for that effort.
The danger, as events in Daghestan a decade ago, is that such an officially sanctioned fight will get out of control and others who oppose magicians and the like may decide that they have the right to attack and even kill those who practice these arts. In Daghestan between 2011 and 2015, a number of witches, fortune tells and the like were killed.
A similar danger exists in Chechnya, Ruslan Kutayev of the Assembly of Peoples of the Caucasus suggests because “our society does not accept the activities of these people and considers their activity contradicts all the canons of Islam. That the authorities are working against the witches is something which the residents of Chechnya will only welcome.”
Witchcraft, fortune telling and the like are not illegal in the Russian Federation, but rights activist in the North Caucasus say that none of those involved in these practices in Chechnya have yet appealed to them for defense.
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