Vienna, January 12 – Only one young Daghestani in four would turn in to the authorities someone he suspected of being an extremist, according to a recent sociological survey conducted in that troubled North Caucasus republic and one that underscores just how difficult a task Moscow faces in rooting out militants and bringing peace to that republic.
Indeed, according to Salikh Mulimov, a sociologist at Daghestan State University, many of those questions said it would be useful to “organize public discussions with representatives of extremist and terrorist views,” hardly an indication that those making this proposal view the latter at beyond the pale (www.riadagestan.ru/news/2011/01/10/108056/).
Last spring, Mulimov and his team surveyed 1600 students and university-age Daghestanis and interviewed an additional 500 people over the age of 30 in order to determine their attitudes toward “religious-political extremism and terrorism.” The results have now been published in the journal “Narody Daghestana” and reported by RIADaghestan.ru.
Both groups were asked two sets of questions, the first of which consisted of queries designed to measure the level of the knowledge of respondents about religious-political extremism, the reasons it has appeared in the North Caucasus and the goals and intentions of those who practice it.
The second block, Mulimov continues, featured “specific questions” that required the respondents to express their own attitude toward extremism, terrorism, and the struggle against it. The study was conducted, he suggests because “despite the enormous number of human victims, Daghestani society unfortunately has not really condemned terrorism and extremism.”
Among the findings are the following: “An absolute majority of the young people questioned – 74.5 percent – consider the religious situation in the republic to be tense and conflict-ridden.” And they say that this reflects the introduction of new religious movements and “the struggle of various religious organizations to increase the number of their followers.”
Asked whether it is permissible to force people to accept a particular religious dogma, 68 percent of young Daghestanis said that it was not, but 23 percent said it was, and seven percent said they found it difficult to answer the question.
When the survey asked “If you knew that there were extremists or terrorists among your acquaintances, neighbors or relatives, would you report this to the law enforcement organs,” “only 418 or the 1600” said that they would, while 35 percent said they wouldn’t and the remainder, just under 40 percent said they were uncertain.
When members of the older age groups were asked by the sociologists the same question, 32 percent said that they would, an equal number 32.1 percent said they would not, and another third – 35.5 percent – told the interviewers that they found it difficult to answer this particular question.
Among the reasons the older Daghestanis who said they would not turn in someone to the authorities gave were the following: “This isn’t my responsibility,” “this contradicts my understanding,” and “I am afraid that the law enforcement organs would not defend me or leave me in peace.”
The groups were then asked whether religious organizations in Daghestan should “act according to federal and republic laws.” Just over half – 840 of the 1600 – of the young people said that they should, but “about 40 percent,” Muslim underlined, “consider that [they] “need not act in the legal field of federal and republic laws or find it difficult to answer this question.”
And when asked whether they supported the implementation of the principle of separation of church and state, only just offer a quarter – 442 – said they did, while nearly half – 748 – said they were opposed to something that is enshrined in both the Russian Federation and Daghestani constitutions.
The sociologists then asked whether the university-age Daghestanis thought going over to shariat law would reduce the level of extremism and terrorism in the North Caucasus, a third – 534 – said that it would, 40 percent said it would not, and a quarter said that they found it difficult to say.
The survey also asked people ab out the goals of religious extremists, about the factors behind its spread in Daghestan and the North Caucasus, and about their own knowledge of and practice of Islam. (While more than 80 percent of those surveyed said they were Muslims, only much smaller fractions practice the faith.)
The answers of the older age group to other questions are especially intriguing. Asked what the difference was between Sufism and the Wahhabis, 53 percent said that “they know nothing” about either, but they immediately added that “the Wahhabis reject a mediating role in religion” and “do not read the Koran at the graves of the dead.”
And asked in what kind of state – secular or religious – they would like to live, two-thirds of the sample said they would like to live in a secular state, while only 16.4 percent said they would like to life in a shariat one. At the same time, six percent said they would like to life “in a good, stable, rich and ideal state.”