GROZNY - In a blatant contradiction with Russia's secular notions, the Russian-backed government of Chechnya is applying a new education system in schools that includes offering courses on Islam, a policy seen as aiming to combat growing insurgency in the region.
"The authority is given to us not only to teach but to look after the moral upbringing of the students of the school, Islam Dzhabrailov, one of 420 teachers employed from madrasas to teach history of religion, told Reuters on Monday, October 22."All of that for example allows me to control the appearance of the female half of the school.
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Like hundreds of religion teachers, Dzhabrailov, 21, wears a green prayer cap and a plain tunic.
This religious dress is increasingly growing popular in the mountainous province in southern Russia's mostly Muslim Caucasus region.
Working in School No. 20, one of the schools built on rubbles of Grozny after two wars with Russia, Dzhabrailov said the region's top Muslim leader has the final say on who will serve in the schools.
We as spiritual mentors, have the ability to recommend activities of the teachers," he said.
But he says his position "was created by ... [President] Ramzan Kadyrov himself".
Enjoying the backing of President Vladimir Putin, Kadyrov's system was defying Russian separation of religion and state, pushing Chechnya further from Moscow.
After two devastating wars with Russia, which killed thousands of people, Chechnya is now seeing an Islamic revival.
Mosques across the province are now packed with worshippers every day.
Serzhen-Yurt village, for instance, has nine mosques to serve its 5,000 residents.
Hijab is also becoming popular among Chechen women, especially the younger generations.
"You must make schoolchildren understand the meaning of true Islam. You must understand that this is a huge responsibility," Kadyrov was quoted by Chechen government's website as saying earlier this year.
In this sense, critics say Kadyrov wanted to combat Islamist insurgency by implementing his own brand of Islam.
But Kadyrov is accused by right groups of targeting insurgents and sometimes their families with strongarm tactics including kidnappings and torture.
In the neighboring region of Dagestan, insurgents still wage nearly daily violence.
Failing to compete ideologically with an insurgency stoked by human rights abuses, poverty and corruption, the Chechen president is seen playing to religious sentiments of the local population.
"He wants to be seen not only as the head of a region but an Islamic leader, a Caliph," Grigory Shvedov, editor of the news portal Caucasian Knot, said.
"The problem for the Kremlin is the more Chechnya develops as the religious centre of the Caucasus and Russia, the further it moves away from Moscow," he said.
Shvedov opines that the Russian president was also trying to turn Grozny into a new center of the Islamic world.
Raising his Islamic credentials earlier this year, Kadyrov brought what he said were relics of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) to Grozny where they were displayed to men for three days and to women for one.
Since then, he has said he will remain the guardian of the relics, which include strands of what he deems to be the prophet's beard.
Despite contradicting with their policies, Kremlin officials do not express worry in public over the increasing role of Islam in Chechnya and analysts say Kadyrov will remain loyal to Putin.
But the very personal nature of their relationship has also its weakness, said Alexander Mukhin, head of the Moscow-based Center for Political information.
"Putin depends on Kadyrov and Kadyrov on Putin," he said.The relationship between Chechnya and Moscow depends directly on that personal relationship and if either of them were, God forbid, not to be in power, then that relationship could change drastically.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net