Monday, November 6, 2023

Moscow Must Learn that the ‘Traditional’ Islam It Favors Can be as Radical as the ‘Non-Traditional’ Kind It Opposes, Makarkin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 4 – The Russian government, and following it most Russian analysts and many Western ones as well, view the division between “traditional” Islam as defined by Moscow as something positive or at least acceptable and “non-traditional” Islam again as defined by Moscow as something inherently threatening and subject to banning, Aleksey Makarkin says.

            But the Moscow analyst says that in fact what Moscow calls “traditional” Islam, that is an Islam which remains confined to the mosque, can be as radical or even more so than the “non-traditional” kind that the Russian authorities seek to suppress (

            Failure to recognize this reality – and he implies that it is widespread -- Makarkin continues, means that Moscow often targets groups that it defines as “non-traditional” rather than being concerned about “traditional” Muslim organizations and individuals that it categorizes as being of no real threat.

            Some kinds of radicalism exist on both sides of this divide such as a consensus about Palestinians. There may be differences in how the two express their anger about Israeli action, but there is a real consensus about this that while currently expressed in different ways nonetheless highlights the unity of Islam beneath the divisions Moscow thinks exist.

            And that means, the analyst implies, that if the regime targets one kind of Islam but not the other, it may unwittingly radicalize those it calls traditional and make them as radical or more so than those it calls non-traditional. That has happened repeatedly in the North Caucasus over the last three decades, and it can happen elsewhere as well. 

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