Vienna, July 16 – Many have pointed to the likelihood that the current Russian leadership will use new legislation on extremism to isolate their opponents and limit free speech. But there is another threat that could prove equally dangerous: badly drawn guidance on such issues for security officials at the working level.
That this danger is all too real is suggested by a reviewer of a new book featuring recommendations on how to identify and counter extremist groups that was approved by some of the most senior officials at the Russian Ministry of the Interior for use by militia officers (http://www.islam.ru/pressclub/islamofobia/naponis/).
The book, entitled “Contemporary Political Technologies for Countering Radical Extremist Trends” and written by O.A. Korobov, D.V. Sochiyev, and S.N. Fedodorko, was published by the Nizhniy Novgorod State University Press in 2006 with the explicit note that it was intended for the use of Interior Ministry officers.
Among the more egregious and thus disturbing of the authors’ errors are the following: The authors say that the Tuvinians are Muslims and the Bashkirs are Buddhists when the reality is exactly the opposite. They suggest that the Georgian government is running the drug trade in the Caucasus under Wahhabist slogans.
They confuse the Boskurt Turkish nationalist group with the Muslim Brotherhood, argue that Turkey and Iran are quite similar Muslim states. And they cite as an authority for some of their conclusions about Islam and Islamist groups the Russian pagan party Slaviya.
Indeed, their sources for many of their assertions are at the very least controversial: Among the authors most frequently cited is the American writer Daniel Pipes, whose extremely negative views on Islam have been widely criticized by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars alike.
No one could reasonably expert militia on the beat to be experts on these questions, and no one doubts that many writers in the Russian Federation on these questions are both accurate and thoughtful (See, for example, the survey of expert opinion by Kaflan Khanbabayev at http://www.riadagastan.ru, July 13, 2007).
But when a book that is intended to provide guidance on how to identify and then counter extremist groups of all kinds and Islamist ones in particular is so wildly off on even the most basic questions, it is difficult not to conclude that the militia may exceed their brief because their brief is so badly drawn.
And when a book full of such errors is so enthusiastically approved by top officials in the Interior Ministry, it is also difficult not to conclude that at least some of those people and even their bosses in the Kremlin may in fact want the militia to do precisely that.