Daghestanis Seek To Overcome Muslim Divisions To Oppose Militants


Daghestan banned Wahhabism more than a decade ago both to defend traditional Islam and counter militant groups, but officials and Muslim leaders in that North Caucasus republic have now concluded that this step was counterproductive and have opened a process to bridge the divide between these two trends – and for exactly the same reasons.

The Daghestani law banning extremism, the traditional Muslim leaders of Daghestan have concluded, has had the effect of dividing the umma, not only creating a situation in which entireliy innocent people are attacked for their faith but also allowing the militants to pose as the defenders of what is a widely respected trend in Islam and thus gain support from that alone.

As Islamnews.ru pointed out yesterday, “one o fht emost discusses themes of recent times in Daghestan has been the issue connected with the start of dialogue between representative es of the two conflicting religious tendencies of Islam,” between “so-called official Islam” which is based on Sufism and Salafites, including Wahhabis (www.islamnews.ru/news-53521.html).

The news service points out that “all negative events in the republic are being connected with the presence of a certain destructive force by the name of ‘Wahhabism,” thus automatically equating all the followers of this trend to the militants who in turn cover their illegal activity with islam or more precisely with one of its trends.”

Government officials, both Daghestani and federal, have made the situation worse, the portal suggests, by their insistence of the need to “struggle ideologically with the radicalization of young people” even as they acknowledge without doing anything that the reasons most young people are going into the forests is because of “social problems and corruption.”

Neither the officials nor the Muslim establishment were inclined to make any change, however, until Daghestani society “began to raise the alarm” about the growing departure of young people “‘into the forest’” and to insist that “by force alone, problems will not be solved: force will give rise only to force.”

The first effort to have the leaders of the various trends of Islam within Daghestan’s umma to talk with one another was a Makhachkala roundtable organized at the end of April Sulayman Uladiyev, the vice president of the public organization, “A Land of Peace and Accord” (www.chernovik.net/news/438/MONOTHEOS/2011/04/29/11917).

The primary goal of the roundtable was “to put a stop” to the charges and countercharges that the two trends have been exchanging for more than a deacde. Among those taking part were representatives of the traditional jamaat, the imam of the Makhachkala central mosque, the head of the Daghestani institute of theology, and all the deputies of the republic’s mufti.

During the discussion, “it was noted,” Islamnews.ru reports, “that representatives of the force or ‘the third provocative side’ about whose presence experts and observers have spoken are seeking to use religious principles in order to justify and even more to support the carrying out of criminal actions.”

One representative of traditional Sufi Islam, Kayakent Imam Kamil Sultanakhmedov suggested that “if today we are not prepared to be united then we ought to at least stop that which divides us,” a step that if taken should allow for others to follow. His position was supported by several other speakers.

Another participant, Mukhammadrasul Saaduyev, the imam of Makhchakala’s central mosque, argued that officials must allow more Islamic activities in civil structures in order to counter the arguments of those who say that the regimes in the republic and the Federation are not just secular but hostile to Islam.

One participant, the poet Adalo Aliyev, went further. He suggested that “certain bureaucrats” are promoting the conflict within the umma and urged that the Daghestani law banning Wahhabism be repealed, not ony because it isn’t working but because it “does not any any analogues” elsewhere in the world.

The rountable declared that “the single possible form for the restoration on Daghestani land of a peaceful life and the well-being of the population is the strengthening of the unity of the Daghestani peoples, the development of dialogue among constructive forces of civil society, an end to inter-religious arguments, the strick observation of law and the defense of rights and interests of citizens, independent of their nationality and faith.”

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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