Many observers have noted that Chechnya’s traditionally flexible, syncretistic approach to its Islamic heritage is suffering inroads from extremists as the war hardens attitudes. Apparently this is now happening not only among the separatist rebels, for whom Islam provides an obvious source of anti-Russian symbols and traditions, but among the pro-Moscow Chechens in Akhmad Kadyrov’s circle.
In a January 5 article based on his recent visit to Grozny, Baltimore Sun correspondent Douglas Birch reported that Chechnya’s chief mufti, a Kadyrov ally, “decreed that only gifts of traditional corn or wheat should be given as gifts during Eid al-Fitr [Muslim festival marking the end of the Ramadan fast]. Money is a modern innovation, and therefore non-Islamic.” A Grozny physician complained to Birch that what Chechnya’s impoverished people need is not grain but cash. “If people like this mufti rule this country, nothing good will happen,” he said.