Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 31

The Chechen Muslim clerics’ declaration of an anti-Wahhabi jihad was by no means welcomed unanimously by their fellow Russian Muslim leaders. Gazeta on August 5 quoted Shaykh Nafigulla Ashirov, supreme mufti of the Asian part of Russia, as saying that given the lack of a legal definition of Wahhabism in current Russian legislation, the jihad calls cannot have a legislative effect. “Wahhabism says nothing about a call for terror,” he said. “It is a trend in Islamic thinking, not a tactic for waging a struggle. There are no bans on thought in contemporary legislation.” Ismagil Shangareyev, mufti of Orenburg Oblast and director of the Islamic Human Rights Center, told Ekho Moskvy radio that the anti-Wahhabi jihad was a “provocation” and that it was utterly impermissible to make such high-profile statements: “It is fraught, because anyone could be accused of this virtual Wahhabism,” he said. “It is reminiscent of 1937, when people were branded Trotskyites who didn’t even know who Trotsky was or what the concept of ‘Trotskyism’ was…Wahhabism, according to the reference books, is the ideology that rules in Saudi Arabia. So are they going to declare a jihad against the inhabitants of Saudi Arabia?”

Aleksei Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center predicted that the jihad declaration would have little effect. “The pro-Russian section of Chechen society is not keen on Islam, and it [thus] cannot…mobilize it,” Gazeta quoted him as saying in its August 5 edition. “The [separatist] gunmen will only laugh at the fact that one more former Komsomol member has declared a jihad against them.” Malashenko suggested the jihad call was a response to the interview with Shamil Basaev aired on the ABC television network in the United States.