Friday, January 6, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Half of Daghestan’s Youth Want Salafi-Style Shariat State, Survey Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 6 – Almost “every second” Daghestani between the ages of 14 and 18 want to see the establishment of shariat law in that North Caucasus republic, with most of those favoring not simply a shariat court system but shariat governance of all aspects of life, according to recent polls there.

            That finding, reported yesterday, surprised even the expert community in what is the most Islamic republic in the Russian Federation, and it suggests that Moscow faces an uphill and possibly unwinnable fight in the future to overcome popular resistance to Russian control (  

            Ruslan Gereyev, who heads the monitoring group on youth problems in Daghestan, told the Muslim news service that in many parts of the republic, people of all ages take their disputes and report crimes not to the government courts but rather to shariat courts in the mosques, and that the latter courts hand out sentences, including executions, which enjoy popular support.

            Many young people and not just their elders as some have suggested, he continued, “openly declare that they live not in an imagined ‘subject of the Russian Federation’ but on the territory of the Emirate of the Caucasus,” the anti-Russian Islamist movement that Moscow has outlawed but been unable to destroy.

            Gereyev makes three additional points, all of which suggest that Moscow’s problems with Islamic resistance in Daghestan and the North Caucasus more generally will only grow over time. First, many of the youthful supporters of Salafi-style shariat have raised enough money to be able to study abroad and return to Daghestan armed with Islamist ideas.

            Second, he argues that one of the best recruiters for this movement is none other than Ramzan Kadyrov whose authoritarian Russian loyalist regime in Chechnya offends many young people in neighboring republics and makes them more responsive to the appeals of Salafi or “pure” Islam than they would otherwise be.

            And third, Gereyev says, the failure of secular officials to provide programs and messages to young people means that an ideological “vacuum” has been created among the young, a vacuum that the supporters of Salafi-style shariat are only too ready and able to fill, actions that have made Daghestan a major center of “pure Islam in the Caucasus.”

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