Tatar Parliament Discusses Recent Attacks On Islamic Leaders
On August 3, 2012 Tatarstan State Council went on a special expanded session involving security officials and religious experts’ for questioning the investigation of the June, 19 2012 attacks on local Muslim leaders. The unprecedented assaults were followed by what was called an “extraordinary parliamentary meeting”. The deputies together with local ministers, prosecutors, municipal heads and Muslim clerks gathered to work out sustainable legislative counter moves against the upsurge of religious extremism.
The meeting, which was live broadcast on the republic’s television, started with the Tatar Deputy Prime Minister Asgat Safarov’s report. The former local Interior Minister claimed that the first ever attacks on Muslim leaders in Tatarstan elicited tremendous social and mass media response. However, “the mess of opinions and confronting views highlighted our total incapability of assessing the situation in a proper way”, Safarov stated. According to preliminary investigation results, the assault was motivated by the professional activities of Ildus Faizov and Valiulla Yakupov, who had been known as uncompromising opponents to Salafism ideology and its followers.
Moreover, Safarov admitted that the radical Islam movement had “fertile grounds for developing in Tatarstan due to the total absence of control in post Soviet time”. “In 90-ies the country was flooded by various religious studies different from historical and cultural traditions of our ancestors. Rich pre-revolutionary theological roots had been lost and the number of mosques with unprepared mullahs soared. In this situation the region was invaded by Salafists who brought generous funding and new ideology that became very popular among the youth”, reported Asgat Safarov. He also stated that the radical movement enjoyed the former mufti’s permissiveness not without the influence of lavish cash flows from foreign Islamic groups fully managed by him. According to the figures revealed by Safarov, 82 people in Tatarstan were sentenced to prison for extremism and terrorism over the past four years. “The criminals scared and confused the population, set up Islamophobia and negative attitude towards security forces’ work. It is of crucial importance to solve the crime and find its arrangers as soon as possible”, the Deputy Prime Minister concluded his speech.
The following Interior Minister Artem Khokhorin’s report was much briefer, reasoned and tough. “We have been living in the state of undeclared war for thirteen years already. The republic is nowadays very close to the break-even point and ongoing processes can easily go out of control”, claimed the minister. He admitted increasing proficiency and organization skills of terrorists. “They are good at conspiracy and well aware of security services work peculiarities”, stated Khokhorin. The minister also said that the radicals in the region were occasionally supported by the local business and stressed that the current situation was under the worst-case scenario the same way as in the North Caucasus republics. During the report, Artem Khokhorin also announced the list of municipals where the Salafist movement had the largest number of followers. At the end of the speech, he reminded the audience of analytical report dated back to 1998 which highlighted the rising influence of Wahhabism threatening destabilization in the region.
Further on, it was religious experts’ turn to speak out on the matter. The Kazan-based Russian Islamic University rector Rafic Mukhametshin claimed that the Tatar elders who were considered as traditional Islam traditions keepers in the region failed to compete with educated in Saudi Arabia theologists, who could easily gain popularity and attracted a lot of young people. “The process taking place in Tatar republic correlates with the global signs of all-round Muslim community radicalization”, stated the expert. The academician Rafael Khakimov pointed to the lack of literature on traditional Islam and low quality of religious textbooks. “At the time nearly 70 Tatarstan citizens are studying abroad in the areas currently undergoing religious conflicts and local wars. Apparently, they are learning to kill. There is no necessary ideological ground in these countries. We can successfully educate students in Tatartsan. Russian Islamic Institute’s facilities are sufficient enough”, stressed Khakimov. The State Council deputy Farid Miftakhov appealed for detailed determination of traditional Islam so that to avoid its malicious mistreatment. He also suggested further enlarged discussions of the problem with participation of officials, religious leaders, activists of all Tatarstan municipal districts.
At the end the Tatar deputies voted for several legislation amendments aimed to stricken the Tatar religious and educational system. From now on, local religious organizations will be established only by Russian citizens, Muslim clerics are obliged to study in Russia or have their diplomas confirmed in a special procedure. All clerics must sign labour contracts with religious organizations they are working at. Tatar President Rustam Minnikhanov pledged comprehensive support of religious authorities. Minnikhanov demanded that “an efficient religious educational system” is created and promised social guaranties for the clerics. He also urged unanimous social, political, national opposition against religious extremism. “It will take us much effort to cope with the consequences. Those people who follow ideas incompliant to traditional Islam contradicting to the republic’s long-term stability and welfare must be declared our enemies”, Minnikhanov stated.
Photo courtesy of prav.tatarstan.ru