Russia and Islam: The end of peaceful coexistence?


FOR years Tatarstan was held up as a model of stability and tranquillity as the Muslim-majority republics of the Russian north Caucasus became embroiled in a separatist conflict that spawned a still-continuing civil war along religious lines. More than half of Tatarstan’s 4m people are Sunni Muslims who have long enjoyed friendly relations with the rest of Russia. Kazan, the regional capital on the Volga river 450 miles (724km) east of Moscow, is a prosperous and attractive city.

That sense of calm has changed since July, when assassins shot dead a prominent Islamic leader, Valiulla Yakupov, and nearly killed Tatarstan’s chief mufti, Ildus Faizov, with a bomb detonated under his car. The exact motive remains unclear but many in Kazan seem to think it is related to the public campaign of both men to combat the rising influence of Salafism, a fundamentalist form of Islam.

In Soviet times, Islam in Tatarstan was largely a means of ethnic identification and had something of a “folk” character, says Akhmet Yarlykapov of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Yet in recent years Salafism, which has gained followers throughout the Muslim world, has made inroads in Tatarstan, especially among the young. Migrants from the republics of the north Caucasus and the post-Soviet countries of Central Asia have also spread more conservative interpretations of Islam.

Estimates of the number of Salafists in Tatarstan vary. A local mufti, Farid Salman, says the public figure of 3,000 is probably far too low. The older generation and those in official religious structures are wary of the Salafist groups, seeing them as imports and gateways to radicalisation. After he came to office in early 2011, Mr Faizov started to remove conservative imams and banned religious textbooks from Saudi Arabia, whereas his predecessor had largely left the Salafists alone.

Written By: The Economist
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  1. Be very wary about anything the Economist writes about Russia.  They are very much into the “lets blacken Putin” campaign that obsesses much of the Western press.  Any thing that quotes the Carnegie Moscow Centre is almost by definition extremely dubious.  In this case the article itself is not pushing a case one way or the other against Putin, but given how thinly the Economist covers the region with reporting (but thickly with editorial), it seems safe to assume the whole article was pre-drafted by the Carnegie centre.  

  2. No need to ‘blacken’ Putin- do you suppose he’s a nice but misunderstood chap?? 

    Russia is the last best hope for ‘western’ societies to rid themselves of Islam; all other leaders are devoted to accommodating this vile poison.

  3. I’m confused, Nodhimmi, I didn’t see Putin’s name being taken in vain?


  4. nasty and misunderstood.
    Much like, say George Galloway – an unpleasant bloke who you can only praise and support because of the vicious lies that have been willing been printed about him by the press.  

  5.  I do not know who George Galloway is, but as a Russian, I would really like to know what is it that you’d like to “praise and support” Putin for. And what are the vicious lies about him that you are referring to. Your reaction is particularly peculiar in view of Putin not being the subject of the discussed article at all.

    Modern day Russia is sadly drifting towards a more religious society, and more extremist society at that. Russian Orthodox extremists bully artists and writers almost routinely now. Ttheir latest is instigating an attack on the Hermitage, Russia’s largest and most famous museum, because of housing an exhibition of English artists, Chapman brothers. Another recent bit of news was trying to persecute the pop singer Madonna for supporting gay rights at her concert in St.Petersburg. The case of “Pussy Riot” is, of course, notorious. All this takes place with full complacency and tacit support on the part of the official church, which at the same time is busy with acquiring as much property and power as it can get. The church is back to schools with lessons of religion (or almost – the legislation is not yet fully in place, but they are doing it on an “experimental basis” all the same); one of Russias universities, focused until now on Physics, has recently opened a department of Theology; churches are popping up like mushrooms all over Russian cities.

    And the neighbouring Muslim regions of Russia are experiencing approximately all the same with Islam (plus financial support from Saudi Arabia).

    A perfect recipe for a religious conflict, if you ask me.

  6. Ridding a scoiety only of Islam won’t help, rid it of religion by encouraging reason based education. Of course no liberal person wants fascist policies to curb religion, and it can only aggravate the situation.

  7. The case against Pussy Riot is notoriously complex, and a one-sided viewpoint on it marks anyone out (including – especially the Economist) as pushing an agenda rather than reporting.  
    I seem to recall that shocking modern art displays in art galleries is a thing that members of Pussy Riot have been involved with before – an event that gets absolutely zero coverage in the west

  8.  The case against Pussy Riot is notoriously simple: 3 girls got 2 years each in prison for singing in the church. There is nothing more to it.
    Previous participation of one of them in a “shocking modern art display” – so what? They got 2 years for singing in the church, not for what one of them did years ago.

  9. I don’t understand…Isn’t it just much easier to give it all up, and just please everyone around you so they can let you stay alive???

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