By Paul Goble
In a startling demonstration of the spread of new technologies to the North Caucasus, the leaders of the Salafi trend in Islam in Daghestan, one at odds with the dominant Sufi trend there and often associated with political radicalism, used the flashmob technique to bring 5,000 young people into the streets of Makhachaka last week.
In reporting on this event, which was staged in order to demonstrate to visitors from Moscow that people in that republic are not going to sit still for the current situation there much longer, the Islamic Civilization web portal said that this “Islamist flashmob can be called an historic event for Daghestan” (http://www.islamcivil.ru/article.php?aid=647).
“For the first time,” the portal said, “Muslim youth have expressed their unambiguous protest to that disorder which characterizes the republic regarding human rights and civic freedoms” and their support for the Salafis who stand against the dominant Sufi trend of Islam in Daghestan.
According to the organizers, the site continued, “they did not have any certainty that even 1,000 people would come” when they issued their flashmob call. “But no fewer than 5,000 did,” an outcome which shows the flashmob technique works even in relatively backward Daghestan and that Salafi Islam can assemble more than trade unions, United Russia or other groups.
This is such a breakthrough event that it is worth recounting in some detail. During the morning of June 1, young people began to assemble on Makhachkala’s Rodop boulevard. Many people were out because it was the Day of the Defense of Children. But “the Salafi youth decided,” the portal says, “to stage a certain flashmob.”
“Among the people were not evident followers of the other bloc, tariqat Islam,” an indication that this was a Salafi enterprise. When about 3,000 had assembled, the crowd moved up Gamzatov prospect toward the National Library where the Russian President’s Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights was meeting.
According to Daghestani officials, “the Salafis who had assembled at the National Library did not have the right to meet and hence to speak and display placards.” The crowd remained largely silent at the urging of their leader Abbas Kebedov, the leader of the Salafii organization Aklu-s-Sunna val-Jamaa, who asked that they not “give in to provocations.”
At that time, a column of interior ministry OMON troops from the Urals approached. Some in the Salafi crowd then shouted “Allah Akbar,” and the militia formed a defense line apparently fearful of what might happen. If anyone had shot at that moment, there could have been a disaster.
But what happened instead was this: the militia asked the crowd to move away from the National Library, and the Salafi leaders led the group to the Salafi mosque on Kotrov Street.” The crowd moved toward the mosque,” gathering others on the way with “some taking pictures of the march on their mobile telephones.”
After prayers at the mosque, Kebedov arrived along with other Salafi activists. He called on the young people to “preserve” their peaceful approach, “to remain in the mosque and not in any case to go to the forum at the library building,” given that the OMON had brought up armored vehicles.
The Daghestani authorities, Kebedov told the crowd, “do not want a resolution to the difficult situation which exists in the republic.” The only hope therefore is on “delegates from Moscow.” But he continued, “this is our victory; today we have been able to do this.” His speech was “accompanied by shouts of ‘Allah Akbar!’”
The visitors from Moscow “did not come to the mosque as had been decided earlier; insteadof this, five representatives of the Salafi community were delegated to meet with them.” The Salafi representatives were chosen and accompanied Kebedov and others to the forum. According to the Islamic Civilization report, there took place “a sharp and open conversation.”
“Today,” the Salafi representatives said, “five thousand people assembled. Today, they stood peacefully; tomorrow, if nothing is done to stop the situation in Daghestan with kidnappings and murders of innocent people, nothing will stop these young men.” According to the portal, “this monologue, it was clear, had an impact on the guests.”