The Jihadization of the North Caucasus

Comment by Dmitry Shlapentokh

Special to Russia Profile


The Movement of Radical Islam into Russia is a Warning to the World

The North Caucasus continues to be a problem for Russia, and, increasingly, for the broader global community. The recent violence and public protests in Ingushetia and Dagestan demonstrate that the problem has not disappeared, despite the efforts of the Russian authorities to convince both the Russian public and the global community that the war in Chechnya was over a long time ago and that the entire North Caucasus, together with the rest of the country, enjoys stability and security. To casual observers, those currently engaging in violence in the North Caucasus are not very different from those who started the war in Chechnya, but gradually common criminals and nationalists are being replaced by jihadists.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a weak central government led to an increase in violent crime all over the country, but in certain regions of the Caucasus the growth of violence was especially strong. And eventually this violence evolved into a nationalist struggle against Moscow. At that time, the members of the Chechen resistance dreamed of creating an independent state fully incorporated in the global order. But already by the end of the first Chechen War, and especially after 2004, the motivation for violence began to shift away from establishing an independent Chechnya toward global jihadism. The reasons for this transition are, of course, manifold, but Moscow’s policy of supporting the Kadyrov clan—first the father and then the son—has played the most important role. Ramzan Kadyrov had become practically an independent ruler with only the slightest connection to Moscow. This “independent” Chechnya, at least in its political actuality, created an expectation for the other peoples of the North Caucasus to expect a complete separation from Moscow. This society is mainly one of brazen corruption, state-sponsored violence and, consequently, complete misery for the majority of Chechens, but these abuses are at least orchestrated by Chechens. This situation has allowed for the creation of a safe harbor for the global jihadist movement, which has increased its hold over a growing number of North Caucasian resistance fighters.

It would be wrong to assume that plain criminality and nationalistic-inspired resistance will completely disappear, but the influence of global jihadists is expanding. A clear sign of this growing influence could be seen a few years ago in correspondence between Movladi Udugov, the chief ideologist of the Chechen resistance, and Akhmed Zakayev, who played the role of Chechen foreign minister in exile. Udugov stated that he hardly saw the building of the Chechen state as a legitimate goal for the resistance. He pointed out that, in this respect, the Chechen state would not be much different from the Russian state in its oppressiveness. Udugov also proclaimed that he did not understand why he should feel any attachment to Chechens just because he is Chechen: it is not this tie that should unify the North Caucasian people. For some similar thinking individuals, the Taliban became the model to follow.

A basis for global cooperation

Despite the increasing tension between the United States, Russia and Iran, as well as the general distrust between the United States and many moderate Islamic regimes, there is still common ground for cooperation––they are all enemies of radical jihadists. The views of radical jihadists from the Russian North Caucasus provide a good window into the mind of a much broader constituency.

The North Caucasus resistance has become increasingly radical since the beginning of the Second Chechen War in 1999. For the jihadists who oppose Chechen nationalists, the Taliban has become the example. But as the radicalization of the North Caucasian resistance increases, even the Taliban, which according to some radical jihadists is possibly the only government that followed the dicta of the Koran, started to lose its luster.

A contributor to one Internet site appeals to the authority of Sheikh Al Islam Ibn Taymia, who, together with Qutb, is one of the most quoted authorities for present-day Islamists. The contributor argued that the Taliban has become tainted by compromise with the non-Islamic world and has tried to create a peculiar, but still democratic, state. This was a crucial mistake. To start with, democracy is an outmoded political system; even leaders who are not inspired by Islam understand this. Hitler abandoned democracy and made Germany a strong state. Chinese leaders have followed the same path, forsaking democracy and pitilessly crushing those who challenged the regime, which has made China strong despite much screaming from Western critics. Democracy is an unworkable institution by its very nature; furthermore, organized states of any type are not part of Islam. The Taliban forgot this. It attempted to play according to international rules. It wanted to be recognized by the international community and indeed was recognized by some states. The Taliban also tried to integrate themselves in the global order of the non-Islamic world, hobnobbing with regimes that, while claiming to be Muslim, were actually quite foreign to Islam, such as the Persian Gulf states.

All these blunders would have been avoided by those who follow the Islamic path. They would have rejected any political arrangement that does not stem directly from the Koran. The Koran implies that one-man rule rather than democracy should be the organizing principle of government. This principle should go along with resolute struggle against any regime that is a traitor to Islam despite external Muslim trappings. Such regimes are to be treated with the most decisive actions, for they are more dangerous than openly anti-Islamic regimes to the cause of Islam.

And the same holds for the Russian regime. Muslims who serve Russians and those such as Ramzan Kadyrov, Russia's viceroy in Chechnya who combines Islam and nationalism should be decimated without pity. The Internet sites make a special point of describing the gruesome death of such people. Other Muslims are warned not to help wounded pseudo-Muslims, at the risk of being subject to attack themselves.

This uncompromising extremist view, apparently shared by increasing numbers of Islamists underground, including the North Caucasian segment, is troubling. But it has a silver lining. The absolutist nature of the movement could well create a basis for cooperation for practically all members of the international community, regardless of the tensions among the major players.

Dmitry Shlapentokh is an associate professor of history at Indiana University, South Bend.

02:24 Gepost door gepost door Kris Roman in Geopolitica english | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |

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