Staunton, April 17 – The governments of the Russian Federation and other post-Soviet states have long been convinced that Muslims who attend mosque openly are unlikely to become a problem but those who don’t may be radicalized by those over whom the existing powers that be have no control.
Thus, these regimes have generally protected mosques and mullahs prepared to work with officially established structures, viewing them as its allies in promoting “traditional Islam,” and gone after Muslims of what used to be called “the non-mosque trend,” those who follow itinerant imams or Internet messages and at the very least are more difficult to control.
Now, to combat the coronavirus, the post-Soviet states in most cases have banned regular services at mosques, telling the faithful to perform their prayers at home. But there are some experts who say that at least a few of those who can’t go to mosque will now turn to the Internet and become radicalized.
Among those making that argument is Ildar Safargaleyev, the head of the department for Islamic research at the Moscow Institute of CIS Countries. He suggests that if the self-isolation policy does not continue for very long, such behavior is unlikely, but that if Muslims are kept from mosques longer, that could trigger radicalization (materik.ru/rubric/detail.php?ID=104496).
At the very least, he suggests, some Muslims may get used to turning to radical sites on the Internet and continue to be influenced by them even after they can return to going to mosques on a regular basis. He says he draws that conclusion on the basis of research he has just completed (materik.ru/rubric/detail.php?ID=103398).
If Safargaleyev is right, then the most important consequence of the pandemic may not be on public health or the economy but on the ideological convictions of those who are now getting religious messages from new and potentially more radical sources.