Sharia law threatens Moscow control in Muslim Chechnya

August 26, 2010

grozny mosqueAspects of sharia law imposed in Muslim Chechnya in recent months are inching the republic closer to autonomy and posing a renewed threat to Kremlin control, analysts say. The Kremlin relies on its hardline Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, to maintain order in the violent region in the North Caucasus, where separatists were driven from power a decade ago after two wars.

Analysts say Kadyrov’s methods to tame the region include a crackdown on opponents and imposing his radical vision of Islam, which could push Chechnya again towards separatism.

(Photo: The main mosque in Grozny, May 17, 2008/Said Tsarnayev)

Kadyrov, who fought Russian forces during the first Chechen separatist war in the early 1990s but switched to Moscow’s side when the conflict reignited in 1999, says the claims are an attempt to blacken his name.

Earlier this month Chechnya’s spiritual leader successfully ordered the shutting down of all eateries during the holy month of Ramadan. Separately, many women said they had been harassed by men for not wearing headscarves in what some of the assailants said were instructions from religious authorities.

The Ramadan orders followed words of praise from Kadyrov who told state TV he was grateful to attackers who targeted women with paintball pellets in June for not wearing headscarves.

Read the full story here and a timeline on the spread of sharia in Chechnya here.

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