FaithWorld

Russia’s Muslim elite vows to tackle Islamist extremism

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(Russia's chief Mufti Ravil Gaynutdin in Moscow February 10, 2011/Sergei Karpukhin)

Russia’s Muslims on Thursday set up a council of experts to devise ways to tackle extremism, two weeks after a suicide bomb attack on the country’s busiest airport killed 36.  Earlier this week Islamist leader Doku Umarov said he had ordered the devastating attack on Moscow’s Domodedovo airport.

“People need to be protected from extremism and terrorism, and educated away from this,” said Ravil Gaynutdin, the chief Mufti of Russia, which is home to some 20 million Muslims, or a seventh of the population. “These experts will play a very important role towards making things better… for Muslims to be more involved in Russian society,” Gaynutdin, clad in a flowing black robe and crowned by a silk white hat, told Reuters in an interview before chairing the council’s first meeting.

He added that the council, comprised of 38 Russian Muslims involved in politics, law and media, will regularly meet to analyse how Muslims live in today’s Russia and make recommendations to government on how their lives can improve. Initiatives could include offering religious guidance to Muslim youths, setting up sports clubs, building more mosques and making sure Muslim literature is easy to find. russia muslim 2

(Victims of a bomb explosion at Moscow's Domodedovo airport in this image taken from mobile phone footage January 24, 2011/Djem79/Reuters TV)

Islamist rebels take aim at Russia ahead of election year

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(Doku Umarov (C) with Chechen rebels in an undated video/www.kavkazcenter.com/Reuters TV)

A suicide attack on Russia’s busiest airport shows Islamist rebel leader Doku Umarov is serious about inflicting “blood and tears” on the Russian heartland ahead of the 2012 presidential election. Umarov, a 46-year-old rebel leader who styles himself as the Emir of the Caucasus, claimed responsibility for the January 24 attack that killed 36 and said he had dozens of suicide bombers ready to unleash on Russian cities.

Russia is struggling to contain a growing Islamist insurgency along its southern flank nearly 12 years after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rose to popularity by leading Russia into a second war against Chechen separatists.

Battle for alcohol in Muslim Russia is deadly business

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(Men drink vodka in a car in Ingushetia's largest town Nazran, January 30, 2011/Diana Markosian)

A masked guard clad in camouflage pokes his AK-47 rifle into the shoulder of a vodka-guzzling client in a hotel bar in Russia’s Muslim Ingushetia region, and orders him to leave immediately. The state-employed security guard then leads the man and his coterie of quiet revelers out of the dimly lit bar.

“We heard reports rebels are on the prowl again and we want to prevent any damage,” said the guard, who wished to remain anonymous.

Moscow prison opens first prayer room for Muslims

butyrkaA prison where Soviet-era writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn was jailed and a third of inmates are Muslims from the North Caucasus and Central Asia, has become the first in Moscow to open a Muslim prayer room.

Nineteenth century Butyrka prison in central Moscow, which also held Adolf Hitler’s nephew Heinrich among other high-profile prisoners, held its first prayers on Friday, in a hall near a Christian church that has operated since 1989. (Photo: Butyrka prison, Moscow, 29 May 2010/Stanislav Kozlovskiy)

“Religion is the best way for one to improve and heal, and we wanted Muslims to also benefit from this,” Kamil Mannatov from the Russian Council of Muftis told Reuters on Monday.

Russia’s Islamist rebels mull language switch to Arabic or Turkish

grozny (Photo: Workers clean blood from the sidewalk outside the parliament building in Grozny October 19, 2010 following a suicide attack there that killed four people/Kazbek Basayev)

Militants waging an Islamist insurgency in Russia’s mainly Muslim North Caucasus region have proposed using either Arabic or a Turkic language as a lingua franca for their affairs. The insurgents now communicate with each other largely in Russian, also the main language of the dozen or so Islamist web sites they are affiliated with, and of their video addresses.

The insurgency leader, Chechen rebel Doku Umarov, suggested earlier this month that a “state” language be formed for the self-styled Caucasus Emirate, a grouping of Muslim republics including Chechnya and Dagestan that want to quit Russia.

Arabic was proposed due to its status as “the language of Islam,” while a Turkic group language was suggested due to the historical and linguistic links of dozens of languages spoken in the North Caucasus. Last week a member of the Caucasus Emirate, Abu Zaid, posted a long appeal on kavkazcenter.com in favor of Arabic as a state language for the Caucasus Emirate, calling it “the international language of jihad.”

Sharia law threatens Moscow control in Muslim Chechnya

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.

Russia’s Muslim south triples sharia bride price as Islamic law advances

brideThe pricetag on a bride in Russia’s Ingushetia province has been tripled by the regional government, in a sign the Muslim North Caucasus region is slipping out of Kremlin control as sharia eclipses Russian law.

Against the backdrop of a bubbling Islamist insurgency, the revival of Islam in the North Caucasus following the break-up of the Soviet Union almost 20 years ago has brought sharia law to the region, revered by both rebels and ordinary citizens alike. ((Photo: Zalikhan, 16, going to her wedding in a Chechen refugee camp in  Ingushetia, August 7, 2000/stringer)

The issue of the ‘kalym’, a price paid by a groom to the family of the woman he chooses to marry, is the latest example of a broader trend that has troubled the Kremlin.

“Miracle” baby gives hope, draws pilgrims in Russia’s Muslim south

baby-legA “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. (Photo: Baby Ali Yakubov in Kizlyar, Russia, 19 Oct 2009/Amir Amirov)

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.

Medvedev turns to Muslim clerics to counter Islamist radicals

grozny-mosquePresident Dmitry Medvedev has urged Russia’s top Muslim clerics to join forces to stop radical Islamist groups wooing young people in the turbulent North Caucasus. (Photo: Main mosque in Grozny, capital of  Caucasus region of Chechnya, 17 May 2008/Said Tsarnayev)

“We cannot force people to give up Internet or close (Islamist) sites,” he told clerics and regional leaders at his summer residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.  “We need to think about finding a (television) channel which would offer teaching and comprehensive explanation of Islam that is traditional for our country.”

Medvedev also proposed stronger control over young people returning to Russia after studying Islam abroad. “Unfortunately these people are returning … (and) bring back unorthodox views on Islam,” he said.