Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Daghestanis Less Strict in Their Islam than Their Counterparts in Chechnya and Ingushetia, Poll Finds

Paul Goble

Vienna, August 31 – Although Daghestan has the reputation of being the most Islamic republic in the Russian Federation, the residents of its capital city Makhachkala are both more religiously diverse and less disciplined in their practice of the faith than the residents of the capitals of Chechnya and Ingushetia, according to an independent poll.
Over the last year, the Prague-based Caucasus Times news service has had its journalists poll residents of the capitals of the republics of the North Caucasus conduct informal polls of several hundred residents in each of them concerning their religious affiliations and religious practice.
Last week, the news services interviewed 200 people in the Daghestani capital, and while the poll by its very nature could not be fully representative, the Caucasus Times said that it considered of adult representatives of the larger ethnic communities of Daghestan and various social, gender, and professional categories (www.caucasustimes.com/article.asp?id=20278).
Compared to the capitals of Ingushetia and Chechnya, the capital of Daghestan was far more religiously diverse. While “the overwhelming majority of those queried” there – 85 percent – said they were Muslims or felt closest to Islam, ten percent identified as Christians, two percent as Jews, and one percent as Buddhists. Another one percent said they were atheists.
Two out of every three people in the Makhachkala poll said that religion played a large role in their lives and 26 percent more said that it played a larger rather than smaller one. “Only three percent declared that religion played ‘a relatively small’ role and only two percent ‘a little’ role in their lives.” In Ingushetia, a slightly larger number said religion was important to them.
Asked how often they prayed, 48 percent of the residents of Makhachkala said they prayed every day, with 10 percent saying they did so every week. “More than a third --35 percent -- said they prayed ‘from time to time.’” In Ingushetia, “more than 70 percent” prayed daily.
But relatively few visited mosques on a regular basis. Only five percent said they went every day, and 37 percent said they did so every week, figures that were slightly lower than those reported in the Chechen capital of Grozny, where eight percent said they visited the mosque daily and 43 percent did so weekly.
As in the other North Caucasus republics, 50 percent of the Makhachkala residents say that “the rights of Muslims in Daghestan were observed fully,” with an additional 27 percent saying that they were largely observed. Eleven percent said their rights were not observed, a figure much higher than in Chechnya or Ingushetia.
The residents of Makhachkala were also asked about their attitudes toward Wahhabism and toward other religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism, and their responses to these questions posed by the Caucasus Times journalists were very different than their counterparts in Chechnya and Ingushetia.
The Daghestanis were nearly unanimous in their denunciation of Wahhabism. Ninety percent said they had a negative very of Wahhabism, with another seven percent saying that their view of that trend was more negative than positive. Unlike in the other Caucasus republics, not one of those queried had a positive view of that trend.
At the same time, 100 percent of the same Makhachkala sample had a positive (82 percent) or more positive than negative (18 percent) view of Christianity, again a very different set of attitudes than those in Chechnya and Ingushetia where some people have negative views of Christianity.
The Daghestanis also reported a more positive view of Judaism than those in the other republics, with 60 percent of the Makhachkala sample having a positive and 24 percent having a more positive than negative view. Only four percent say they have a negative view of Judaism, and only seven percent a more negative than positive one.
Daghestani attitudes toward Buddhism, not one of the religions of the people of the book, are more negative, with only a third having a positive attitude and another quarter having a more positive than negative one. At the same time, 23 percent had either a negative or more negative than positive view of that faith.
But Daghestanis like other North Caucasians viewed atheism negatively. Sixty-three percent had a fully negative attitude toward it, with another 21 percent saying that their feelings about such views being more negative than positive. Only three percent of the Caucasus Times sample had a positive view of atheism.

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