By Paul Goble
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, 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 drugs 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 drugs 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.