“Miracle” baby gives hope, draws pilgrims in Russia’s Muslim south
A “miracle” baby has brought a kind of mystical hope to people in Russia’s mostly Muslim southern fringe who are increasingly desperate in the face of Islamist violence. From hunchbacked grandmas to schoolboys, hundreds of pilgrims lined up this week in blazing sunshine to get a glimpse of 9-month-old baby Ali Yakubov, on whose body they say verses from the Koran appear and fade every few days.
Pinkish in color and several centimeters high, the Koranic verse “Be thankful or grateful to Allah” was printed on the infant’s right leg in clearly legible Arabic script this week, religious leaders said. Visiting foreign journalists later saw a single letter after the rest had vanished.
“The fact that this miracle happened here is a signal to us to take the lead and help our brothers and sisters find peace,” said Sagid Murtazaliyev, head of the Kizlyar region about 150 km (95 miles) north of Makhachkala, the sprawling Dagestani capital on the Caspian Sea.
“We must not forget there is a war going on here,” he told Muslim leaders who had invited the press to witness what they unequivocally claim is a sign from God.
(Photo: An imam holds baby Ali, 19 Oct 2009/Amir Amirov)
Vladimir Zakharov, deputy director of the Caucasus Research Centre at the Moscow State University of International Relations, said he was not in a position to judge the veracity of the claims, but that it was clear they were born out of desperation. “Islam and fear of terrorism now totally dominate the North Caucasus, and they are perhaps using this to escape from a certain reality,” he told Reuters by telephone.
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