Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 14

The pro-Moscow Chechen authorities held a conference in Grozny on March 4, during which they resolved to ban “Wahhabism” as an “ideology of terrorists.” Novye izvestia reported on April 5 that Chechen President Alu Alkhanov plans to sign a special decree related to the ban, and that a special “anti-Wahhabi” center will set up. The conference was devoted to the following themes: “Religious extremism in the Caucasus. Arab-Muslim influence on Islam in the Chechen Republic – problems and contradictions. Traditional Islam – an instrument for overcoming religious extremism in the Chechen Republic.”

According to Novye izvestia, representatives of Chechnya’s official Muslim organizations and governmental agencies dealing with religion were the most supportive of a hard line against so-called “Wahhabism.” Visrudi Shirdiev, chairman of the Chechen government’s committee for relations with religious organizations, declared that “bandits” have killed more than 50 religious figures in the republic in recent years, the newspaper reported. At the start of the conference, Chechnya’s mufti, Akhmad-Khadzhi Shamaev called for Wahhabism to be declared an “extremist ideology” and banned. He also called for the creation of a special structure connected to the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Chechnya, which he heads, and for government financial support for the new entity. Shamaev’s suggestion was backed by the chairman of Chechnya’s State Council, Taus Dzhabrailov, who also called for an “anti-Wahhabi center” at the federal level. President Alkhanov, for his part, promised to back the campaign against religious extremism in the republic financially and called on the clerical establishment to work together with cultural and scientific figures.

The conference ultimately passed a resolution declaring “Wahhabism” the “main ideology of the terrorists” and called on President Alkhanov to issue a decree banning religious and political extremism in Chechnya generally and Wahhabism specifically. The conference also agreed to create a special Islamic center that will take on the functions of opposing religious extremism ideologically.

Meanwhile, Muslim human rights activists came out against the idea of creating a federal “anti-Wahhabi” center during an April 5 press conference in Moscow, Kavkazky Uzel reported. The press conference was organized by Ismail-Khazrat Shangareyev, deputy chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia and a member of the Supreme Council of Khak-Spravedlivost (Truth-Justice), a Muslim human rights organization, and Sergei Komkov, a member of the International Academy of Spiritual Unity of Peoples of the World. The two called the conference in response to, as Kavkazky Uzel put it, the “generalized infringement of the rights of Muslims, their illegal arrest, the unjustified use of force by the law-enforcement organs against representatives of the Islamic religion.” Shangareyev said “power structures in the provinces unjustifiably accuse law-abiding Muslims of Wahhabism, plant grenades and narcotics [on them], after which criminal charges are filed against the detainees.” Vitaly Ponomarev of the Memorial human rights center said that gross violations of the rights of Muslims are taking place on a large scale in Russia.