Kazan: Killing of one Muslim cleric and injuring another last month in Russian prosperous republic of Tatarstan, located in the east of Moscow, shows that radical Muslims are taking firm roots in the republic.
There are signs that radical Muslims in Tatarstan are strengthening and killing peaceful Muslim leaders. A former pro-Kremlin Muslim leader, Valiulla Yakupov, was shot dead in the republican capital Kazan on 19 July. Later on the same day, the Mufti of Tatarstan, Ildus Fayzov, was seriously injured when his car was blown up in the city.
According to the officials, seven suspects have been arrested by the Russian police. But local security sources informed that over 100 people were interrogated. However, some Tatar Muslim groups said that around 500 suspects have been detained in the case of murdering and injuring Muslim leaders.
Detainees include an organizer of a body called Idel-Khadzh which organizes Hajj pilgrimages to the holy city of Makkah in Saudi Arabia. He is accused of being involved in dispute with the mufti who was injured in a car bomb blast.
A well-known Russian Islamic scholar, Mufti Farid Salman, said, “The explosions and the gunfire that just rang out are only the beginning.”
According to him, there are already more than 3,000 radical Islamists in Tatarstan and many of them are not in favor of peaceful dialogue.
On different internet forums, radical Muslims called for the murder of people who frequently and openly criticize the spread of Wahhabism in Russia. Valiulla Yakupov's name had been included in the hit list of these Islamic militants.
Wahhabism is a strictly conservative form of Islam that demands observance of Sharia law and it has become popular among some militants in Russia's volatile North Caucasus.
Tatarstan is a mainly Muslim region on the Volga River and the region has long been seen as harmonious and stable. Tatarstan has always been considered as a model of peaceful co-existence for different nationalities and religions.
But now the peace of Tatarstan is being vandalized in the hands militants who have started a campaign of violence.
Russian security sources said that radical Muslims are getting some serious support from the criminal underworld.
They said, “Racketeers now encourage the collection of tribute at some of Kazan's markets, exploiting the Muslim custom of paying Zakat (alms) but donations are allegedly channeled towards militants waging violent jihad.”
“They also extort money from merchants who do not practice Islam, calling it an infidel tax,” they added.
These radical Tatars are also found within the ranks of insurgents in Chechnya and even among the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The Head of the Volga regional branch of the Russian Institute for Strategy Research, Rais Suleimanov, commented, “The authorities preferred to maintain the pretense that peace and quiet reign in the region.”
“They didn't listen to us and they didn't let us speak. As a result the situation got out of hand, and now that peace and quiet is no more than an illusion,” he added.
Mufti Farid Salman termed the July attacks as “an overt, bold provocation.”
“It seems we've already reached a point of no return. More than one generation of convinced Wahhabis has already come of age in Tatarstan,” he said.