“Russia Sees a Threat in Its Converts to Islam”
The New York Times, July 2, 2015, p.A4
“As a teenager in St. Petersburg, Maksim Baidak hung out with neo-Nazis and right-wing nationalists, but the Russian security services mostly left him alone. It was not until he abandoned white-Slavic supremacy and instead found God — as a convert to Islam and leader of a group of ethnic Russian Muslims — that he came under near-constant surveillance and was often forced into cars at gunpoint by security agents. … While nations across Europe are grappling with the relatively recent peril of homegrown Islamic terrorists, Russia has long lived in fear of a jihadist uprising within its own borders, particularly in the Caucasus, where it fought two brutal wars to suppress Muslim separatists. For President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia, Slavic, ethnic Russian converts to Islam like Mr. Baidak pose an especially subversive threat, not only by stoking Russia’s deep paranoia over separatist extremism, but also by challenging the Orthodox Christian national identity that Mr. Putin has used to unite the country in place of Soviet Communism. The government also worries that ethnic Russian Muslims have shown a willingness to link up with an array of other anti-Kremlin forces, including nationalists, pro-democracy groups and even gay rights organizations. … The pressure by the security services, in the name of combating extremism, has set off a wave of refugees seeking safety and religious freedom, especially in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Muslim leaders and human rights advocates say that Russia’s often brutal approach has also added to the appeal of the Islamic State, with the Russian authorities saying recently that hundreds of Russian Muslims have gone to Syria.”
Quickie analysis: An interesting article exploring the dual challenges of Islam to Russia’s regime, from the right and the left.