RUSSIA: 21st Century Muslims bring 7th Century Islam to Chechnya

Shari’a Law threatens Moscow control in Chechnya.

Aspects of sharia law imposed in Muslim Chechnya in recent months are inching the republic closer to autonomy and posing a renewed threat to Kremlin control, analysts say. The Kremlin relies on its hardline Chechen leader,  Ramzan Kadyrov, to maintain order in the violent region in the North Caucasus, where separatists were driven from power a decade ago after two wars.

Analysts say Kadyrov’s methods to tame the region include a crackdown on opponents and imposing his radical vision of Islam, which could push Chechnya again towards separatism.

Kadyrov, who fought Russian forces during the first Chechen separatist war in the early 1990s but switched to Moscow’s side when the conflict reignited in 1999, says the claims are an attempt to blacken his name.

Earlier this month Chechnya’s spiritual leader successfully ordered the shutting down of all eateries during the holy month of Ramadan. READ MORE

Chechnya’s leader hails paintball attacks on women not wearing bags on their heads.

The Kremlin-backed head of Russia’s Muslim Chechnya region has praised assailants who targeted women with paintball pellets for going bareheaded, prompting outrage from rights activists. Eyewitnesses have said men in camouflage, often worn by police and security forces in the volatile region, fired paintball guns from cars about a dozen times last month at women who were not wearing headscarves.

“I don’t know (who they are), but when I find them I shall announce my gratitude,” Ramzan Kadyrov said in a weekend interview on the state-run regional television channel Grozny.  He called the victims of the paintball attacks “naked women” who had most likely been forewarned.  “Even if they were carried out with my permission, I wouldn’t be ashamed of it,” he said of the paint-pellet attacks.

The attacks highlighted tension over Kadyrov’s efforts to enforce Muslim-inspired rules that in some cases violate Russia’s constitution. The Russian rights group Memorial, which has blamed the attacks on law enforcement officers, said in a statement on Thursday: “Kadyrov’s interview clearly demonstrates the restriction on women’s rights in Chechnya — he openly defends unlawful acts.” READ MORE

Muslim revival brings polygamy and camels to Chechnya.

Adam, 52, keeps his three wives in different towns to stop them squabbling, but the white-bearded Chechen adds he might soon take a fourth. “Chechnya is Muslim, so this is our right as men. They (the wives) spend time together, but do not always see eye to eye,” said the soft-spoken pensioner, who only gave his first name.

Though polygamy is illegal in Russia, the southern Muslim region of Chechnya encourages the practice, arguing it is allowed by sharia law and the Quran, Islam’s holiest book.

Hardline Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov is vying with insurgents for authority in a land ravaged by two secessionist wars with Moscow. Each side is claiming Islam as its flag of legitimacy, each reviles the other as criminal and blasphemous.

Wary of the dangers of separatism in a vast country, Moscow watches uneasily as central power yields to Islamic tenets. It must chose what it might see as the lesser of two evils.  Political analysts say that in exchange for successfully hunting out Islamist fighters, the Kremlin turns a blind eye to Kadyrov’s Muslim-inspired rulesREAD MORE

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