Russian Federation: President of Tatarstan is Concerned by the Menace of Islamists

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Russian Federation: President of Tatarstan is Concerned by the Menace of Islamists

Murad Mahkmudov, Walter Sebastian and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Russian Federation is multi ethnic and multi religious therefore issues related to ethnic tensions and radicalism within any faith movement are deemed to be a threat to the social fabric of the nation state. In recent times it is clear that the growing influence of Salafism is worrying political and religious leaders in Tatarstan and in other parts of the Russian Federation. Not surprisingly, Rustam Minnikhanov, who is the Tatar President, is responding to the growing menace of radicalism because he wants to preserve the unity of this part of the Russian Federation. Likewise, political leaders in Moscow are also very alarmed by the ongoing developments in the Caucasus region and in other parts of this nation.

Sunni Islam is adhered to the most in Tatarstan followed by the very sizeable Russian Orthodox Christian community. Both these faith groups suffered under the old communist system and clearly outside movements which fuse religion, politics and militancy together are viewed with great suspicion. After all, outside forces could easily lead to new convulsions within areas where mutual respect and tolerance is the keeper of the day.

Salafi Islamists in 2012 tried to kill the most influential Muslim leader in Tatarstan. This applies to Ildus Faizov who is a powerful Muslim spiritual leader in this part of the Russian Federation. However, Ildus Faizov escaped the ravages of a bomb attack against his life on July 19, 2012. Valiulla Yakupov, who was extremely close to Ildus Faizov, sadly didn’t escape on the same day because he was shot dead in Kazan.

Rustam Minnikhanov responded quickly to these tragic events which highlight the growing power of radical Islam in this part of the Russian Federation. Therefore, he implemented legal changes which are designed to curb the power and influence of radical groups. Of course, it is too early to say if these new restrictions will impact on Salafists who may go underground in the short-term. However, it is hoped that certain channels will be cut which will reduce the current vacuums which are being exploited by Salafists.

On the President of the Republic of Tatarstan website it was stated that “Unfortunately, (the) intensively developing economy attracts attention of not only investors, but foreign special services and radical extremist organizations,” Rustam Minnikhanov said. He noted that activity of radical extremist groups aimed at destabilization of public and political situation required (the) mobilization of all forces and structures. Tatarstan state power and law enforcement bodies took measures on counteracting terrorism and religious extremism.”

Ildus Faizov and the late Valiulla Yakupov, prior to the attacks which took place in July last year, were both known for their outspoken comments against the growing menace of radical Salafi Islam. Ildus Faizov clearly desires to preserve the co-existence of all religious groups in Tatarstan and to maintain traditional Islam from imported versions which focus on hatred and division. In this sense, the current problem in Tatarstan is a battleground which needs the full support of all religious and secular groups throughout the country. After all, “the soul” of this part of the Russian Federation will impact greatly if the forces of hatred spread their powerbase.

New legal amendments in Tatarstan will prevent nationals from outside of the Russian Federation from opening new religious groups. Razil Valiev, a key political spokesperson in Tatarstan, commented that “Before, authorities merely recommended that organizations make sure the law on the freedom of thought and religion was respected. Now, under the new amendments, organizations will have the obligation to make sure the law is observed. This gives them more rights and more responsibilities.”

Another major feature of the new law focuses on the role of clerics who have studied abroad and then spread radical Islam within Tatarstan. Therefore, the new amendments stipulate that religious clerics must have obtained formal education in the area of religion. Likewise, clerics who have been trained abroad will now need their certification to be confirmed within the Russian Federation. Of course, not all international educated religious leaders have returned in order to vehement religious militancy. Despite saying this, it is clear that certain problems do exist in this area. Given this, it is the duty of Rustam Minnikhanov to safeguard Tatarstan and all religious communities from all forms of militancy, irrespective of the faith which seeks to sow disunity and sectarianism.

Of course, some organizations working in the field of human rights may raise concerns about the new restrictions. More than likely these concerns will be based on genuine fears of trampling down on religious leaders who may suffer from the enforced changes. However, for Salafists who desire an Islamic Sharia state based on their interpretation of the Koran, Hadiths and Sharia law; they clearly hope to fill any vacuums that are open to them. Therefore, some forces of hatred will play the “human rights card” despite wanting to turn the clock back in Tatarstan. Given this reality, it is essential to stem the tide of sectarianism and militancy which seeks to enslave traditional Islam and other faiths in this part of the Russian Federation.

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