Staunton, July 13 – If the Muslim educational institutions in the North Caucasus are to be attractive to the population there and effective in providing both religious and secular training, they need to draw on the “new method” schools of the Jadids of Tatarstan in the 19th century and on contemporary Muslim universities abroad, Alisa Shishkina says.
If they continue to rely on the traditional approach of rote memorization of the Koran, the Higher School of Economics expert says, they will lose their students either to radical underground groups, something Moscow certainly doesn’t want, or to secular schools, something the Muslims of the region don’t (ridl.io/ru/islamskoe-obrazovanie-na-severnom-kavkaze/).
The Muslim educational system in the North Caucasus experienced an explosive but chaotic growth in the first decade after the collapse of communism. Hundreds of medrassahs and other Muslim schools were set up, often with the help of foreign groups with their own agendas. Both the Russian state and the traditional Muslim establishment have tried to rein them in.
Each has confronted problems in doing so. The state, when it suppresses these institutions, discovers that those who might attend them will simply attend underground schools offered by radicals or seek to travel to Muslim universities abroad. And the Muslim establishment finds that its promotion of a one-size-fits-all system offends local sensibilities.
The best solution, Shishkina argues, is one that would combine the principles of jadidist education, which combined traditional Islamic training and secular subjects within Muslim educational institutions, and opportunities for students to study at the most prestigious Muslim universities abroad.
The Russian state won’t like either, but the alternatives is a collapse of the formal Muslim educational system in the North Caucasus and the radicalization of those who choose to go underground. The Muslim establishment will have its own problems because it will sense that it is losing control by not being able to impose a single approach.
In thinking about the Muslim educational system, one must keep in mind that it has the same three tiers it had a century ago, small groups organized around families and individual mosques, medrassahs, and Muslim universities. The second is the most formative and involves as many as 10,000 students a year in Daghestan alone (