Staunton, September 11 – Three senior Daghestani scholars, alarmed that Makhachkala officials are not speaking out against a push there to institute shariat law, are warning that Moscow might respond to any further steps in that direction by cutting off the financial assistance on which the residents of that North Caucasus republic depends.
In an open letter last week in Daghestan’s “Respublika” newspaper, the three – I.A. Shamov, S.A. Abusuyev, and Sh.M. Omarov – express concern, even outrage about those advocating the installation of shariat law and their fears over the failure of republic officials to denounce such calls (www.kumukia.ru/modules.phhp?name=Pages&pa=showpage&pid=9579).
But instead of focusing on the ways in which shariat law violates the provisions of the Russian Constitution and laws, the three argue that the most compelling reason Daghestanis should ignore such calls is the likelihood that the central Russian government might eliminate subsidies to the republic.
While the current tandem might be reluctant to take that step, given that it could lead Daghestan to press for independence, the three say, future Russian leaders might even at some point be prepared to let the North Caucasus go its own way, something the scholars say would be disastrous for Daghestan and the other republics there.
Their argument in this regard is noteworthy because it suggests that for the heavily Islamic Daghestani population, legal and moral arguments against the shariat code are not effective and that support for the introduction of shariat there is sufficiently strong that only the threat of losing Moscow’s massive subsidies might slow efforts to institute Islamic law there.
The letter of the three was provoked by the appearance in “Dagestanskaya Pravda” on August 12th of an article entitled “A Democratic Legal State or a Shariat One,” in which statements in support of shariat law at a Makhachkala roundtable were quoted at length (www.dagpravda.ru/?com=materials&task=view&page=material&id=12297).
One speaker Z. Uvaysov, a lawyer who teaches at Daghestan State University, said that “of course, I am completely for the idea that we should have a Muslim state in which the laws of the shariat will operate.” His position was supported by M. Muslimova, the former head of the information-analytic administration of the first Daghestani president.
Another participant, the article reported, said that “the shariat can be established in Daghestan either peacefully over the course of 50 to 70 years in the framework of the constitutional system, or in the course of seven to eight years if it is introduced in response to the persecution of believers.”
While the author of the article, Gadzhimagomed Osmanov, the three authors of the open letter say, “very thoroughly, logically and convincingly showed that neither the one nor the other course of development in Daghestan within the framework of the Constitution and law is possible,” he failed, the three note, to focus on how that step would threaten Daghestan.
Not only has Daghestan’s own historical experience showed the negative consequences of the shariat system – it lived under the shariat for “eight centuries” before 1917 and remained very poor -- but a shariat educational system, one that part of Daghestan’s young people now are being exposed to, will throw the republic backward “a century” or more.
But there is a more immediate consequence and one that may be even more serious for Daghestan, the three say. The republic is part of the Russian Federation, and “(80 to 85 percent of its entire budget today is given to [the republic] by Russia.” If Daghestan pursues the introduction of the shariat system, that could quickly come to an end.
If that happened, the three scholars say, the very next day, “hunger, chaos and war will begin in the republic. And if anyone hopes that the Arabs or some other people will feed us, this is the worst possible misconception and utopianism.” Moscow alone has an interest in helping Daghestan because it is one Russia’s southern border.
“But at the end of the day,” the three say, Russians “will not lose much if they separate out the entire Caucasus and not just Daghestan.” The “Medvedev-Putin tandem” puts up with things now, “but there is a limit to [Moscow’s] patience.” And “who can guarantee” that someone like Zhirinovsky won’t come to power and say good riddance to the Caucasus.
Daghestan would find itself in terrible difficulties, the three say, and that raises “the most interesting” question: Why aren’t Daghestan’s top leaders speaking out against the shariat? “Where is their answer, their reaction to all this? Could it be that they do not understand how such declarations and actions threaten Daghestan and its people?”