Staunton, June 1 – In September 2019, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Ingushetia liquidated the Muslim Center of Muslims of the Republic of Ingushetia because its head, Mufti Isa Khomkhoyev opposed Yunus-Bek Yevkurov’s handing over 10 percent of the republic to Chechnya in a backroom deal.
But Khomkhoyev has continued to work as mufti, to deliver homilies in the main mosque of the republic, and to speak out in defense of the Ingush Seven and others detained for protesting the land deal. In response, the republic’s courts have imposed increasingly heavy fines on ever more shaky grounds in the hopes of silencing him.
The latest and most absurd involves a charge that the mufti had engaged in illegal missionary activity. According to a court in the republic, Khokhoyev is not a member of a legal religious body because the Muslim Center was abolished and therefore he doesn’t have the right to speak about Islam in public (sobkorr.org/news/60B5CC51DADCB.html and kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/364473/).
His attorney, Magomed-Basir Ozdoyev, says that the mufti has not violated the law violating missionary activity because he spoke only in a mosque where there are only Muslims, “people who have one and the same religion” as he does. Thus, the Russian law does not hold in his case. Ozdoyev says he will appeal this decision as he has appealed the earlier ones.
This latest move by Magas is disturbing not only because it inappropriately applies the Russian law against missionary activity but also because it means that the mufti is going to find it increasingly difficult to function. That is probably what Magas and Moscow want, but they may be horrified by the consequences of what they are seeking.
Khomkhoyev is committed to traditional Islam and has worked to prevent the radicalization of the various parishes in his republic. If he is prevented from working, the likelihood is that some of these will turn to more radical mullahs, a development that could exacerbate the religious and civil situation in that North Caucasus republic.
But there is something even more worrisome. Khomkhoyev, like the leaders of the Council of Teips of Ingushetia which has also been ordered disbanded, has been a leading spokesman for staying within the law in all protests. Without his and their voices, the likelihood is that future protests, possibly over the sentencing of the Ingush Seven that is expected soon, may cross the line.
Moscow and Magas may welcome a chance to crack down on any protest, but they may find that unless the crackdown is far more severe than the ones it has visited on other regions and republics, the Ingush response to such actions may very well be to oppose the regime even more forcefully, exactly the opposite of what the powers that be want.