Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Wahhabis in Russian Far East Said to Call for Civil Disobedience

Paul Goble

Vienna, September 12 – Wahhabis in Russia’s Far East are publishing leaflets and broadsides calling on Muslims living there not to obey the laws of the non-Islamic Russian state, according to Roman Silant’yev, a specialist on Islam whose writings have sparked controversy.
In an Interfax interview issued today, Silant’yev, whose criticisms of Russia’s Muslim leaders cost him his job as executive secretary of the Inter-religious Council in 2006 and who now works for the nationalist World Russian Public Assembly, repeated his earlier suggestions that Islamic radicalism is now a threat in Primorskiy kray and on Sakhalin Island (
At present, he said, there are approximately 1,000 Muslim radicals throughout this area, with the number of organized Wahhabis on Sakhalin now at 15. But the greatest danger, he said, arises from the Islamist literature these radicals are publishing and disseminating there. Some of it, he continued, now openly calls for civil disobedience.
According to Silant’yev, at least some of these published materials suggest that “a Muslim who observes the laws of a non-Islamic state is a sinner,” a position sometimes advanced by Islamist radicals elsewhere but very much opposed by traditional Muslim groups in the Russian Federation.
Despite this threat, the specialist on Islam said, the Far East remains relatively calm with regard to inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations. But there is mounting evidence of tensions within the rapidly growing Muslim community in a part of Russia where few Muslims lived until the last decade.
This controversy within the Islamic community, Silant’yev continued, takes the form of a struggle over the construction and control of mosques between the traditionalist Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) and the more radically inclined MSD for the Asiatic Part of Russia.
At present, the two groups are squabbling over who will be allowed to build the first mosque on Sakhalin Island, Silant’yev said. And it is entirely possible that he gave this interview now to force the government to side with the traditionalists and to crack down on the radicals.

UPDATE. Silant’yev followed up his Interfax interview with another statement to that agency in which he said he has received complaints that a deputy in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk had been bribed and is blocking the construction of both a church and a mosque in that city. That individual, he continued, “is working in the interests of the Wahhabi community” ( Meanwhile, also yesterday, FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev said that over the last two years, officials have initiated 16 criminal actions involving radical Islamist organizations in Siberia (

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