Russian Duma Deputy Asks Egyptian Islamic Scholar For Fatwa On Drugs

In what appears to be an unprecedented development, a Duma deputy from  the Just Russia Party has asked for and received a fatwa on drug abuse  from Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian Muslim scholar, Al-Jazeera and Islam  Online host, and current president of the World Ulema Union who has  been banned from entering the US and the United Kingdom.

The website  of the Just Russia Party reported this week, Semen Bagdasarov, who  serves on the Duma’s International Affairs Committee, requested a legal  ruling or fatwa from al-Qaradawi concerning Islam’s position on  combating narcotics trafficking and drug abuse. The Muslim scholar  responded on April 29 (www.spravedlivo.ru/news/anews/11321.php).

In  his letter to “the deeply respected” al-Qadawi, Bagdasarov noted that  “21 percent of the  heroin produced in Afghanistan comes to Russia,”  that “every year 30 to 40,000 people in Russia (including its Muslim  republics) die from narcotics,” and that “in recent years in Daghestan,  the number of users of heroin has doubled.”

“The interests of  society require that those who cultivate plants containing narcotics or  who are involved in the illegal trade and acquisition of drugs receive a  worthy punishment,” the Just Russia deputy says.  And “therefore we ask  you to express a shariat judgment about people” who are engaged in this  trade or who consume drugs.”

“We also ask,” the Duma deputy  continued, “that you render a judgment in relation to those who covertly  make possible the distribution of this pernicious substance when they  act in their own selfish interests.”  And he concluded his letter with  the diplomatic language, “accept my assurances of deepest respect.”

Al-Qadawi’s response was that those who engage in the drug trade or who  support it in any way deserve the harshest punishments available because  they are violating the specific injunctions of the Koran and Islamic  traditions, to which the Muslim leader provides numerous and extensive  citations.

On the one hand, Bagdasarov’s request may represent  nothing more than an effort to curry favor with Muslims in the Russian  Federation and to enlist a Muslim religious leader in Moscow’s criticism  of NATO and the United States for failing to do more to stop drug  production and exports from Afghanistan.

But on the other, his  action and especially the willingness of his party to post all this on  its website highlights both the growing influence of Muslims within the  Russian Federation on the calculations of Russian leaders and the  readiness of the latter to turn to Muslim leaders abroad for support –  even to Muslims many in the West have decried as extremist.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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