Thursday, November 11, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Al Qaeda Focusing on Daghestan in the North Caucasus ‘Sunni Triangle,’ Makhachkala Expert Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, November 11 – Al Qaeda has selected Daghestan as its main center of operations in the North Caucasus “Sunni triangle,” which also includes the republics of Chechnya and Ingushetia, according to a leading expert on Islamic movements who works in the Daghestani capital of Makhachkala.
In an article on, Ruslan Gereyev, an expert at the Center of Islamic Research of the North Caucasus, argues that both conditions in that republic and the inability of the powers that be there and in Moscow to address them adequately help explain and in fact justify Al Qaeda’s choice (
The Sunni triangle has become “an arena of unceasing terrorist actions,” with both terrorism and criminality “broadening their spheres of influence, sowing fear in society, exerting an influence on the powers that be and business, and denigrating both the customs o fhte peoples and the main beliefs of Islam,” Gereyev says.
“The number of victims [of these plagues] is growing among the civilian population, but the powers that be are not capable of solving the severe social problems … Corrupt people in soft chairs – bureaucrats, prosecutors, judges and militiamen – are in essence the accomplices of the extremists. People are tired of waiting for change,” and they have lost faith in the authorities.
As a result, the Makhachkala expert continues, “present day reality is such that many terrorist organizations in the first instance Al Qaeda advance as their main task the establishment of a single khalifate on the territories of all countries with a Muslim population. As the center of this khalifate, they have chosen Daghestan, in essence already ‘a green republic.’”
According to Gereyev, “the most cruel and strong subdivisions of international terrorist organizations” are now active in Daghestan, “the ideological core of which have become the Wahhabi communities or jamaats.” That is because, he says, the Wahhabis “earlier than the others” were ready to fill “the ideological vacuum” and thus win over young people.
The Wahhabis are ascetic, reject a mediating role for religious leaders, and acknowledge the possibility of direct contact with the Creator. Moreover, they assert that if a khalifate is created, the people will have the right to overthrow or even kill the khalif if he ignores Muslim interests, a popular image for those who feel they have no control over their officials.
Moreover, the Wahhabis have with remarkable success played up the idea that they represent the true faith while traditional Muslims in Daghestan have fallen away and allowed pagan traditions or innovations to contaminate the faith or subordinated Islam to selfish, earthly needs.
But in doing so, the Wahhabis have subordinated Islam to their earthly goal, “recruiting the youth” and directing them in “a holy war” against those Muslims “who do not participate” in such actions, a number that is especially large in a place like Daghestan where Islamic faith and practice is strong.
There are 2500 Muslim religious organizations in that republic, including more than 1900 mosques. In addition, there are a variety of Muslim educational institutions at all levels, an active Muslim media, and Daghestanis “massively” go on the haj, all things that make the Wahhabi strategy against traditional Muslims such an obvious one.
In recruiting young people, “the unification of the supporters of radical Islam in Daghestan have contributed to a situation when in the republic there are arising ever more underground militarized groups with common religious principles about the establishment of a genuinely Islamic state living according to the norms of shariat.”
And “such a semi-military situation in peace times quietly is driving out of the constitutional realm even those who do not view themselves as Wahhabis or as tariqatists,” Gereyev continues, but are forced to act against those who attack them given the shortcomings of the powers that be in the republic.
“The absence of an adequate policy from the central and republic-level powers that be has assisted [the Wahhabi agenda]. Radical Islam has thrown challenges to the Republic of Daghestan which has not been able to develop its own positions, above all in relation to the various branches within Sunni Islam,” Gereyev says.
The Makhachkala expert notes that “Daghestani society has up to now not condemned terrorism and extremism.” That is a matter for “great regret,” but in one sense,it reflects the failure of the powers that be not to make sufficient use of “authoritative religious leaders, scientists, cultural figures and educators.”
“There is no participation of political parties and public organizations in this most important task,” Gereyev says, and as a result, “the ideas of Al Qaeda in its propaganda about a return to ‘pure Islam’ [has been able to occur without much opposition and now] finds full support among definite circles of young people” in Daghestan.
As a result, “the Al Qaeda bureau in the North Caucasus has become more active,” with the immediate objects of [its] terrorists attacks being the Muslim republics themselves which have moderate regimes,” attacks which are now so numerous that they “significantly exceed the number of terrorist actions in West European countries.”
“Especially,” Gereyev says, this is the case “in Daghestan.”

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