Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Unification of Russian Islam

When discussing the Islamization of the West, France is usually cited as being the worst-off of the Western democracies. It has an estimated Muslim population of 10%, perhaps as high as 15%, and the demographics of the situation — a very low birthrate among the native French, and a baby boom among the Muslim immigrants — do not bode well for the future of France.

If we expand the definition of “the West” a bit, it becomes necessary to add India and Russia to the list of Most Islamized Western Nations. India has the largest, oldest, and most intractable “Islam problem” of any Western democracy. The Muslim minority in India is over 150 million (13+% of the population) and is growing relative to the Hindu population. India lives under the constant threat of terror attack. Its citizens experience deadly bombings and other forms of violent jihad with mind-numbing regularity.

Russia is a special case. Its Muslim population is estimated at 10% to 12%, and its demographic situation is worse than that of France, so that Russian Islam is expected to grow rapidly. If present trends continue, Muslims will comprise a majority of the Russian military within a couple of decades.

Islam in Russia

However, as analysts often point out, Islam in Russia is different from virtually anywhere else. The most fanatical Osama-loving terrorists and their sympathizers are confined mainly to Chechnya, Dagestan, and other small republics in the southern Caucasus. To the extent that these ethnicities have migrated to Moscow and other parts of Russia proper, the problem of Islamic terror has spread, but its practitioners are still mainly from those Caucasian ethnic groups.

A large part of the Muslim population in Russia is Tatar. The Tatars are a Mongolian ethnicity, and have been in Russia for almost eight hundred years, since the they first conquered the Eastern Slavs. When Ivan the Great threw off the Tatar yoke two and a half centuries later, the Tatar Muslims became subordinate to the Orthodox Christians of Holy Russia, and have retained that status ever since, except for a brief atheist interregnum between 1917 and 1991.

Western analysts have generally regarded the Tatar brand of Islam as mild and innocuous, especially compared with the virulent versions found in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Somalia. Since the Tatars are estimated to number between seven and eight million, or around half of Russia’s Muslim population, this cuts the percentage of “problem” Muslims in half, making the scope of the issue roughly the same as it is in the Netherlands.

Except in the case of the Caucasus, the Legacy Media have consistently downplayed the danger of radical Islam in Russia. An article from April 2007 in The Economist is a case in point. It calls the increase of Russian Islam “a benign growth”, and describes it in glowing terms such as only the MSM can provide. The subhead tells us:

Russia’s fastest-growing religious group is its Muslims. But they are not much like their counterparts in other countries

Below are some further excerpts from the article. I’ve bolded certain names, for reasons that will become apparent later on:
…Russia has more Muslims than any other European state (bar Turkey); and the Muslim share of the population is rising fast. The 2002 census found that Russia’s Muslims numbered 14.5m, 10% of its total of 145m. In 2005 the foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, put the number of Muslims at 20m. Ravil Gaynutdin, head of Russia’s Council of Muftis, talks of 23m, including Azeri and Central Asian migrants.

Already you notice the standard Islamic tactic of inflating for propaganda purposes the number of Muslims within a given country. Because “Islam is the world’s fastest-growing religion” (everybody knows this, and the media keep repeating it, but how do we know it’s true? Statistics can always be traced back to the OIC or CAIR or MPAC or similar organizations), the number of Muslims has to be revised continually upwards.

Moreover, the Muslim population of Russia is rising even as the country’s overall population falls. Many Muslim communities long predate Russian rule. Shamil Alyautdinov, the imam of the newest and most dynamic of Moscow’s four mosques, insists that the very word “minority” should not apply to a faith “which emerged on Russia’s territory far earlier than Christianity did”.

Aside from the Caucasus, there are now two concentrations of Muslims in Russia. One is in Moscow, swollen by labour migration, where they may number 2m. The other is in the faith’s old bastions: Bashkortostan and, above all, Tatarstan (see map), where a revival of the faith has been overseen successfully by a wily regional president, Mintimer Shaimiev. In several parts of the Caucasus, old-style compacts between local rulers and “tame” clerics have alienated young people; but in Tatarstan they still seem to work quite well.


But in general Islam’s resurgence in Tatarstan’s capital, Kazan, has been peaceful. For the first time since Ivan the Terrible conquered the place in 1552, the city’s Kremlin houses a mosque, its minarets vying with nearby Orthodox Christian onion domes. Ramil Yunusov, its Saudi-trained imam, gets on fine with the local Orthodox clergy. Just 25 years ago, says Gusman Iskhakov, the mufti who heads the Muslim Spiritual Board of Tatarstan, the region had some 20 mosques. Now there are around 1,300.

This is the MSM’s story, and they’re sticking to it: Everything is fine; Islam in Russia is cool and hip and friendly and modern, just as Yuri Andropov was. OK, so there’s a bit of radicalism here and there, but nothing the FSB can’t handle.

And, yes, the number of mosques in Tatarstan has increased from 20 to 1,300 in just a quarter of a century. That’s a 6400% increase — more than 18% per year — but we’re not supposed to worry about it. After all, since the Orthodox Christians have been building all those churches for centuries, it’s only fair — right? Now it’s Islam’s turn.

Rafael Khakimov, an adviser to Mr Shaimiev, uses the term “Euro-Islam” to describe the faith that has evolved in what was for long the world’s northernmost Muslim outpost. Wherever he turns, Mr Shaimiev likes to present a benign image. Accompanying Mr Putin round the Middle East, the Tatar leader shows Russia’s pious Muslim face, a tactic that underpins the Kremlin’s Middle East diplomacy. In February the Saudis gave Mr Shaimiev an award for services to the faith. But when they are talking to west Europeans, the Tatar authorities like to present themselves as more open-minded than most other regions of Russia.

This is what everybody has been hoping for — “Euro-Islam”. It’s what Tariq Ramadan has been peddling in the swanky European salons of the academe and the media for the last decade or so. The cultural elite have resigned themselves to Islamization, so the benign version of Islam is supposed to make the process easier to accept. Just take your Percocet and slather on the Vaseline — and then lie back, close your eyes, and think of Euro-Islam.

Many people in Arab countries, says Mr Shaimiev, have never lived on equal terms with other cultures, and their teaching doesn’t suit the needs of the Tatars, who have. His government has opened its own religious schools and universities, to propagate its preferred form of Islam.

So the madrassas of Tatar Islam — Euro-Islam — are different from those of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. This, too is supposed to reassure us. We’re meant to believe that their students are being taught Sharia Lite.

Among the politically active Muslims of Moscow who lobbied for Imam Stepanenko, the mood is different. For one thing, there is a row between two contestants for official favour: the cautious Mr Gaynutdin, and Talgat Tadjuddin, a feisty chief mufti who in 2003 proclaimed a jihad against America.

Notice that a Muslim who declares a jihad is described as “feisty” — evoking the image of a lovably cantankerous old rogue, who maybe makes a spot of trouble now and then, but is quite all right, really. I mean, he only declared a jihad against America, after all, and not — whew! — Europe.

If we fast-forward nearly four years to the end of 2010, we hear a slightly different tune coming out of Russia. Among the ululating voices are those of Ravil Gaynutdin and Talgat Tadjuddin. The “cautious” and “feisty” imams are still front and center, although the variant transliterations of their names makes them a bit harder to identify.

Here’s what Asia News has to say:

Russian Islamic Leaders Against the Kremlin

The chief mufti attacks the State guilty of hindering the unification of the Muslims of the Federation and condemn those religious leaders who are working as puppets to quell the community’s presence in the country.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — The leaders of the Russian Muslim community have launched a strong attack against the authorities in the country. The head of the Council of muftis of Russia, Ravil Gainutdin, accuses the state of wanting to obstruct the unification of Muslims and attempting to “suppress Islam” in the Federation. He has also described as “puppets” and “squalid people,” those mufti who work in government institutions.

This is a somewhat more confrontational — dare we say “extremist”? — message. Three and a half years later, and Mr. Gainutdin is now on the attack. Does this mean he has graduated to the status of “feisty”, like his esteemed colleague?

Not entirely. It seems that the two muftis have been singing from the same hymnal all along, and were just playing good cop/bad cop with the gullible media droids. That feisty-versus-reasonable shtick was just for the rubes:
The project of unification of the Russian followers of Muhammad dates back to 2009. Then, Gainutdin said in an interview with Radio Liberty, “the mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin had proposed to merge the three central organizations of the Muslims of Russia.” “After studying the idea — continued the religious leader — I together with the leader of the Caucasus Muslims, Berdiyev, met him. We created a working group to structure this unification. But the government did not approve of our decision. They claimed Talgat Tadzhuddin’s idea was not in line with government policy”.

The new goal is a single, unified Islam throughout the Russian Federation. Chechens, Tatars, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, and all the others, in it together for the good of the Ummah.

Mr. Gainutdin is clear: any clerics who resist his call for Islamic unity are “puppets” of the Islamophobes:

Gainutdin’s charges against the State are also motivated by the recent creation of the fourth muftiyat (Islamic Council), the “Russian Association of Islamic agreement” designed precisely to prevent any process of unification. “The new ‘pocket muftis’, who oppose the growth of Islam are mere puppets” says Gainutdin. “These puppets, like those who work in government, for example, the Islamophobic Grishin (the director of the Presidential Administration in charge of relations with Islamic organizations, ed), will not hesitate to suppress Islam in Russia … which is already taking place,” he added.

This charge of disloyalty aimed at the “pocket muftis” is a serious one. Under sharia law, it is very close to a declaration of takfir against them, which is a form of apostasy, and carries the death sentence. This is serious business.

The last paragraph provides a hint as to what might be causing all this newfound “feistiness”:
Commenting on the recent clashes between Nationalist hooligans and mostly Muslim immigrants from the Caucasus, Gainutdin emphasized the existence of tensions in the capital home to more than two million Muslims. He also pointed out the need to build new mosques in Moscow, where the faithful are forced to pray, for lack of space, “in the streets, on tram lines, and even in the courtyards of churches.” “This humiliation, this discriminatory policy against civil rights continues, before the eyes of Muslims around the world.”

Mr. Gainutdin is reminding the oligarchs who rule Russia that he has two million troops under his command in Russia’s capital city. This is a warning to Vladimir Putin to shorten the chain on his nationalist “hooligans”, or face the consequences. Judging by the roundup of young nationalists over the past week or so — the last I heard, a couple of thousand of them were in preventive detention — Mr. Putin has gotten the message.

It seems that Islam in Russia is not the mild and relatively harmless institution that we all thought it was. Russian Muslims are flexing their muscles and pushing for unity.

For some reason, they seem to think that tomorrow belongs to them.

Hat tip: C. Cantoni.


Richard said...

Things are starting to get real nasty in Russia, and with Putin being the man in charge (never mind what the titles say he is in charge) the Russians are going to start reacting violently to the Moslems. The future is looking scarier all the time.

Anonymous said...

The situation is both more and less alarming. On the plus side, the chances of Tatars-Azeris-Chechens ever finding a common language are very slim. Tatars cannot find a common language among themselves, being split between the Tatarstan and Crimea branches (though with the latter being in Ukraine, the pressures relent).
On the minus side, the continuing and growing corruption of Russian authorities creates ideal medium for Moslems to operate in. The latest nationalist rally was formally the upshot of a Moscow soccer fan killed by Balkars (North Caucasus) – and then immediately let go by police – for a bribe, it is assumed.
The parallels with Europe are all too obvious – just like there, corrupt politicians are trying to replace “unreliable” local population with less educated Moslems who will vote for whoever their imam tells them to vote.
And, just like outside Europe, the Moslem influence stems from oil – this time, Tatar one.
With the new generation of oil-rich Moslems buying up positions at Ministry of Justice and even Internal Affairs and FSB (formerly KGB), the window of opportunity to deal with the threat legally is shrinking fast. Thus things are bound to come to a violent end in Russia much sooner than in Europe.
Incidentally, the conclusion “Putin’s gotten the message” is on the premature side. Actually, he attended the killed fan’s funeral amid a heavily nationalist crowd. It is not quite so clearcut.

Zenster said...

lbertarian: On the minus side …

To Hell with the corruption, try NUCLEAR WEAPONS … thousands of them.

France is bad enough. The prospect of Russia's nuclear arsenal falling into Muslim hands makes all logical thought processes grind to a halt.

Anonymous said...

You neglect to mention the Tatars in the Ukraine, noteably in the Crimea.

I have been there, and one can here the call of the Muezzin on Fridays. Scary.

goethechosemercy said...

Beslan-- the image of things to come in the so-called Emirate of the Caucasus.

urah2222 said...

Just give it time.When the "Russian" muslims realize that they are +/-15% of the population things in Russia will get extremely dicey. Dr. Shalit

Zenster said...

goethechosemercy: Beslan-- the image of things to come in the so-called Emirate of the Caucasus.

I want to thank everyone here − with a special hat tip to trencherbone (WARNING: Graphic coverage of Beslan at link) − for keeping the memory of Beslan alive when so much of the world seems willing to let that horrific atrocity slip down the memory hole.

For those left unconvinced by the 9-11 atrocity, Beslan was there to make sure absolutely NO ONE could ignore the "elephant in the room".

As we have seen, much of our world is vigorously ignoring the salon-residing pachyderm, and there will only be more Hell to pay because of it.

This is not the sort of problem you ignore and hope will go away. It's like ignoring a constant grinding sound in your car's transmission.

Beslan served final notice to our world of just how depraved Islam really is. Those who continue to doubt in the face of such incontrovertible evidence may well be hopeless.

Putin has claimed that, "Russia is the defender of the Islamic World" and has done this with full knowledge of Beslan's incredible degree of brutality.

The profound cynicism and political manuevering this represents should give pause to all thinking people as it shows we are entering into another Cold War with Russia as it continues the Soviet tradition of using Islamic terrorism to triangulate against Western interests.

Russia is the modern midwife of Islamic terrorism just as Soviet Communists bred up Palestinian terrorism like a kennel bitch in a puppy mill.

If you read the two linked articles, your perception of Islamic terrorism will be forever changed. Putin was up to his ears in the same KGB apparatus that had earlier birthed Islamic terrorism and he is oiling up that blood-drenched machine even now, knowing full well of the death tolls that await both here and in Russia.

Hesperado said...

"Western analysts have generally regarded the Tatar brand of Islam as mild and innocuous..."

What Western analysts? The same Western analysts who regard the vast majority of Muslims as mild and innocuous? Western analysts like those assiduous ants at Jihadica...?

One would think that by now this canard of finding moderate Muslims in certain regions of the world -- whether Indonesia (of which, for example, every news report about some bout of Islamic pathology hastens anxiously to add the boilerplate assurance, "but the vast majority of Indonesians practice a moderate form of Islam"), or Malaysia, or Bosnia, or the region of the Chinese Uighurs, etc. -- would have been laid to rest by now; at least in the still inchoate anti-Islam movement ("still inchoate", in part, because of lapses like this).

The Hesperado

Baron Bodissey said...

Hesperado --

"Lapses like this" by whom? Me, or the "analysts"?

I've never supported this idea; I simply consider it the "current wisdom", and am reporting the standard MSM analysis -- I have read it many times. Not from sensible people such as Mark Steyn, Fjordman, Robert Spencer, Ibn Warraq, etc. -- but a basic believer in "moderate Muslims" who writes about Russia is likely to assert this sort of thing about the Tatars.

sheik yer'mami said...

Russia’s fastest-growing religious group is its Muslims.

"But they are not much like their counterparts in other countries..."

Well, in Chechnya they turned out quite like their counterparts in other countries. And Putin's sucking up to that lunatic Kadyrov will eventually come to bite him in the ass.

The Moscovite Muslims who pray in the streets where they also slaughter thousands of sheep read the same Koran as the ones in Sowdi Barbaria.

They might wash it down with vodka, but apart from that, does that really make them different? More pleasant? Less threatening?

Then there is this little gem from Putin himself:

Putin: ‘Wouldn’t give 10 kopecks for the health of somebody who disrespects the Koran’

Putin also said this:

If you are a Christian, you are in danger. Even if you are an atheist, you are in danger, and if you decide to convert to Islam, this will not save you, either, because traditional Islam is inimical to the conditions and objectives set by the terrorists.

Continue reading (Moscow Times)

Hesperado said...

Baron Bodissey,

I'm glad you clarified that. Two reasons why I doubted you prior to your clarification:

1) In your initial notice, there was no qualification of "Western analysts"

2) I have seen a few analysts/observers who may be more or less located within the still amorphous lines of the "anti-Islam movement" who parrot that aspect of the paradigm that assumes that areas of the Muslim world that are, let us say, less explosive, must be more moderate than other areas (e.g., Kathy Shaidle, and even Hugh Fitzgerald his own self with regard to one or more contiguous neighbors of those former Soviet Republics (if memory serves, Tjadikistan)).

The rule of thumb, it seems to me, is to presume any given Muslim, or groupuscule of Muslims, guilty until proven innocent.

Baron Bodissey said...

Hesperado --

You're probably right. I should have said "Western analysts in the MSM plus those in the Counterjihad who believe in the moderate Muslim" -- that would have been clearer. But it also would have been too cumbersome. So to heck with it.

Anonymous said...

"In February the Saudis gave Mr Shaimiev an award for services to the faith. But when they are talking to west Europeans, the Tatar authorities like to present themselves as more open-minded than most other regions of Russia."

That the Saudis are involved is all one needs to hear to know that the so-called benign Tatar Moslems are dubious at best. And of course the Tatar authorities "present themselves" as more open minded.... Moslems are always presenting themselves as something or another, a constructed identity that invariably clashes with reality!

Anonymous said...

The recent nationalist riot was really unfortunate. Thanks to the idiots making Hitler salutes, the entire Russian nationalist movement is smeared as "fascist". Thus any real opposition to the Kremlin's civic nationalist agenda will be ineffective. Fast forward a decade or two and the Russians will wonder what happened to their country.

Anonymous said...

Agent, the problem is that any peaceful attempt of change will fail. This is what people need to get through their thick skulls.

I actually respect the Russians for moving their behinds and riot. Maybe Westerners should do this each time one of them is killed. Nazi salutes or not.

Zenster, I don't see why Russia shouldn't continue to use things against the West, considering that the US didn't mind using the same thing against Russia, for one and that the US never stopped undercutting Russia for 2nd. And not to mention that all the idiocy of civic nationalism and whatnot came from over there.

Zenster said...

rebelliousvanilla: I don't see why Russia shouldn't continue to use things against the West…

I'm sure there is a lot of stuff you don't see, probably including the two articles that I linked to in my original comment.

If you didn't bother to read those two rather explanatory pieces, then I'm sure you still think your position actually has a shred of merit to it.