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A Caliphate “from the Red Sea to the Caspian”? By: Kathy Shaidle
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In the wake of last month’s horrific Mumbai massacre, a recent warning about the spread of Islamic extremism in Russia is particularly chilling.

On December 12, the Interfax news service quoted Major General Yury Tomchak, interior minister of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic, as saying that “the wide-scale expansion of radical Islam into practically all regions of the Russian Federation” is a “source for concern.” He added that, “cells of international extremist organizations have developed intensive activities lately in individual constituent territories [of Russia], activities that include takeovers of “lucrative sectors of business.”

This growth of Islamic extremism within Russia’s borders, especially in Chechnya and Dagestan, comes even after the Russian government banned seventeen radical Muslim organizations. For whatever reason, deadly atrocities of the recent past, such as the Moscow Theatre seige or the Beslan school massacre, are frequently attributed to regional, secular separatists rather than Muslim terrorists. This, despite statements made by the terrorists themselves, which reference “Allah” and the establishment of a caliphate “from the Red Sea to the Caspian.”

Of course, the situation is extremely complex, and religion plays only one part, as Russia expert David Satter of the Hudson Institute explained to Front Page Magazine via email. In terms of Major General Tomchak’s Kabardino-Balkaria, which was rocked by attacks on police and security facilities in 2005, the spread of Islamic radicalism “is often fueled less by religious fervor than by the corruption of the local pro-Russian authorities and the brutality of the police,” said Satter.

Satter warns that Tomchak’s statement regarding the “takeover of businesses by radical Islamic groups should be treated with caution. The Russians like to depict their battle with Islamic groups as part of the war with international Islamic extremism. At the same time, they foster this extremism with their own lawless behavior. In 2005, [Cabinet minister] Dmitri Kosak warned [Russian Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin that corruption, clan ties, poverty and unemployment could lead to a sharp rise in radicalism in the North Caucasus.”

Meanwhile, reports indicate that anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment among ordinary Russians is on the rise. At least according to a December 20 Georgian Daily News story, such sentiments were confined to “xenophobic groups” but have recently “entered the mainstream as a result of worsening economic conditions.” The Mayor of Moscow condemned the number of “guest workers” allegedly stealing jobs from Russian citizens, and earlier this month, Putin said he favored cutting immigration quotas in half next year. Armed militias with links to the Russian Orthodox Church are reportedly “patrolling Russian cities” to police Muslim immigrants, prompting “some Muslim groups to become more active” in turn.

Semin Bagdasarov, of the Duma’s international relations committee, told a reporter last Wednesday that “Moscow must adopt new laws to limit the influx of radical Islamist terrorists from Central Asia and the Caucasus who threaten to bring ‘the global jihad’ into the Russian Federation and result in terrorist acts against the Russian people and the Russian state.”

He added that Moscow must direct the Muslim clergy in Russia to conduct an ideological campaign against terrorist supporters in their midst. (One expert claims that “eighty percent of Muslim literature published in Russia reflects ideas and principles of wahhabism” and “contains appeals not to observe laws of non-Muslim states and to liquidate peoples with other religious convictions.”) As Ilshat Alsayef, one of the founders of Muslims Against Sharia explained to Front Page in October,

“Centuries-old local mosques are being replaced by modern, Wahhabi-built mosques. Old imams who survived the communists are being replaced by Wahhabi clerics. This is not only true for predominantly Muslim countries like Tajikistan, but also for autonomous regions inside of Russia like Bashkiria and Tatarstan, where most people consider themselves more Russian than Muslim. You can see similar developments in former Yugoslavia, where moderate imams with little financial backing are being replaced by radicals with virtually unlimited financing.”

Due to high birth rates and immigration levels, Islam is poised to become the primary religion in the Russian Federation by 2050, in part because the native Russian population is in decline due to high rates of abortion. This has led some observers to the worrying conclusion that Russia’s all-conscript armed forces will also be majority Muslim by 2015.

However, David Satter maintains that “this is just one possible [outcome] of the ongoing demographic implosion affecting the Slavic population.” Satter insists that many of Russia’s Muslims are “quite secular” but the possible consequences of “sending a predominantly Muslim force to suppress Islamic radicals on behalf of a corrupt regime dominated by Russians are not hard to imagine.”

One expert on both Russia and the former Soviet Union as well as Islamic terrorism points to one of the many ironies and unexpected historical twists that have led to the current situation. Laurent Murawiec wrote recently that “Russia’s Bolsheviks played a singular role” in the evolution of modern Muslim terrorism:

“...the jihadis acquired most of their political technologies from the Soviets. As early as he came to power, Lenin made a pitch to recruit Russia's Muslims; a quarter million Muslim soldiers with their own officers and political commissars saved the Bolsheviks from defeat in the Russian Civil War. Lenin and the Communist International called and organized for jihad against ‘British Imperialism.’ (...) What the Muslim cadres learned from the Bolsheviks – often before returning to Islam – was that terror was a system of rule and of government. The lesson was not lost. It returned to haunt the modern world, in the form of the KGB's creation and steering of Arab terrorism, the PLO, the PFLP, the PDFLP and other terror groups; in the form of the Algerian FLN, and others.”

That was the past. What does the future hold? Last August witnessed a bizarre and little-reported meeting between two religious leaders: Russian Orthodox bishop teamed up with Russia’s Supreme Mufti to call for “a united Islamic-Orthodox Jihad against the Empire of Satan” (i.e., The United States.) For now, the meeting seems to have been a one-off event that has generated little enthusiasm amongst either Muslims or Russian Orthodox Christians. However, given the instability, corruption and conflict at the heart of Russian society, and Vladimir Putin’s unshakable lust for power, it isn’t wise to rule out the strangest of alliances as the latest chapter of Russian history begins.

Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury.com. Her new book exposing abuses by Canada’s Human Rights Commissions, The Tyranny of Nice, includes an introduction by Mark Steyn.

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