Staunton, June 5 -- Moscow has been using laws against missionary activity that it said had been adopted to prevent the spread of Islamist radicalism against Protestant groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Pentecostals for the last several years as well as against Muslim groups it has identified as radicals.
But now the Russian authorities are using the same paragraphs in the legal code against mainstream Muslims in Ingushetia, Daghestan and Russian-occupied Crimea. This is sparking anger among the faithful in all three places, and it could spark protests from Muslim groups if it is extended to the Muslim community as a whole.
A case in Ingushetia shows how outrageous this approach is. Mufti Isa Khamkoyev has been fined for delivering a homily within a mosque with engaging in missionary activity even though all those he was speaking to were Muslims and he was only performing his religious duties (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/364681/).
Moreover, despite his difficulties with the political leaders in Magas who have suppressed the muftiate he headed (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/02/failure-of-prosecution-witnesses-to.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/02/magas-court-fines-ingush-mufti-merely.html), Khamkoyev has worked hard against Islamist radicals.
If Moscow now goes after such Muslim leaders, it will lose important allies in the fight against radicalism and thus be confronted by a situation in which ever more Muslim parishes will be taken over by radicals, something that will likely prompt the regime to step up its repression of them in response and lead to the further radicalization of Muslims.
Consequently, any short-term victories the Kremlin’s increasingly repressive policies may gain it in the religious sector are likely to turn into longer term defeats. And those defeats are not likely to be long in coming, Kavkaz-Uzel suggests in its survey of this new practice (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/364681/).
According to lawyer Stanislav Kulov, editor of the Religion and Law portal, traditional Muslim groups are now second only to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Protestant denominations in becoming victims of the inappropriate use of Russia’s anti-missionary legislation.
As such people are removed from their positions because of fines or jail time, others are going to fill their position; and they are likely to be more radical both religiously and politically than those they replace. That means that the Muslim community, which in most cases has been politically passive, may be provoked into action, exactly the reveres of what Moscow wants.