By Vestnik Kavkaza
Recent events which are connected with recruiting Russian citizens for fighting in Syria or events in Surgut’s suburbs where the local police stopped two car trains with “Wahhabits” made experts talk about possible interethnic conflicts initiated by supporters of radical Islam.
“There is a phenomenon which we either underestimate or do not understand. This is the phenomenon of radical political Islam in Russia,” Mikhail Remizov, president of the National Strategy Institute, says. “Wahhabism, radical political Islamism as a broader concept, has become an integrated anti-Russian protest ideology that attracts enough powerful energy, of course, especially in Muslim areas, in regions of traditional spread of Islam. We cannot treat it calmly, graciously, not least because we see what is happening in the Muslim regions of North Africa and the Middle East. We think that it would be too blithe to assume that the trend will bypass Russia deliberately. Our traditional territory of the spread of Islam densely populated by Muslim nations are in this respect in a very serious risk area, especially since there are some structural similarities with the regions where the so called “Arab Spring” took place – for example, a large number of young unemployed men or the active expansion of Islam in the criminal community. There are lobbies within the bureaucracy, among the decision makers – at different levels, mainly at the middle one, but sometimes at the upper level signs of patronage could be noted.”
Remizov thinks that we should eliminate the possibility of patronage of radical political Islamism at the top, at the level of the highest state bureaucracy and at the level of the religious clergy; we should also change immigration policy: “The long-term risk factor for the spread of radical Islamic ideologies on the ground is mass migration to Russia, because this environment, the environment of immigrants, is the perfect one for the dissemination of such currents and movements. These are destitute people; these are people who are experiencing solidarity with each other in view of the situation in which they have found themselves.”
Speaking about the position of the Russian people in the national republics, Remizov stated that the presence of Russian regions ultimately amounts to the presence of Russian statehood: “If the Russians go away, Russian statehood also strategically leaves – maybe not in one stage, but step by step. One more problem is the expansion of the clan economy of the North Caucasus in the border regions: Stavropol Territory, Krasnodar Territory, the Rostov region, the Astrakhan region. This expansion harms the republics of the North Caucasus and the Russian regions.”
Roman Silantiev, director of the Human Rights Centre of the World Russian People’s Council, cited the FSB director that “the terrorists’ geography has been expanded – now it includes Siberia, the Far East, the Urals and, this year, the first conflicts have already been recorded in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, and Tatarstan was finally introduced into the zone of increased terrorist activity. But in Russia there is a region where the problem is mostly solved. This is Chechnya. Ramzan Kadyrov said at once that a terrorist is a Wahhabi, and Wahhabis are terrorists, for the fact that we do not have religious terrorists. From the point of view of Kadyrov we do have them, and, in general, I agree with him, as the national structure there is very diverse, unlike the confessional structure. Of course, without the prohibition of Wahhabism this problem cannot be solved. Even a ban on Wahhabism does not guarantee quick solutions to it, but at least it provides some opportunities to do so.”
According to Silantiev, there is a very powerful lobby, which is sharply opposed to any attempt to put forward this diagnosis, that is, merely to give a definition of what is Wahhabism. To ban Wahhabism, it is necessary to define it. Many officials are afraid to deal with them properly. Someone is afraid because of the physical threat. Some officials are afraid because of some business interest. They are afraid that a war with the same terrorists will break some mythical tranches.