Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Anti-Americanism, Anti-Westernism, and Anti-Semitism among Russia's Muslims

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Anti-Americanism, Anti-Westernism, and Anti-Semitism among Russia's Muslims

Article excerpt

Although many in the West do not subscribe to Samuel Huntington's view regarding a "clash of civilizations," many of the world's Muslims and all Islamists do. An expression of the Islamic world's clash with Western civilization is its rabid anti-Americanism, anti-Westernism, anti-Semitism, and Islamic solidarity. Russia's Muslims are no exception. They express the same limited and prejudiced range of opinions that many Muslims around the world do toward the West. Despite this, some in the West persist in believing that even Russia's most extremist Muslims-the North Caucasus jihadists led by the Chechen hub calling itself the Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya (ChRI)-are neither jihad-ists nor militants.1 Many analysts believe the Caucasus militants compose a noble national liberation movement rightly seeking their separation from an imperial or colonial power, as they have for centuries.2 They scrupulously and relentlessly subject Russian actions to microscopic analysis and harsh criticism, but largely ignore and routinely abstain from criticizing the Caucasus jihadists' means, methods, and ideology.3

In fact, the Islamist element has held sway over the Chechen militants since the summer of 2002. Islamists Shamil Basayev and Shariah Court Chairman Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev forced President Aslan Maskhadov to amend the ChRI constitution, subordinating him and the constitution to Shariah law as interpreted by Chechen and other Caucasus jihad-ists. The Chechen separatist movement expanded the war to the wider North Caucasus region and aimed to expand it to all of Russia's "Muslim lands" to establish an Islamic state or federation of Islamic states. The Caucasus jihad adopted the global jihadist tactics of suicide bombing and improvised explosive devices. Ideological declarations were increasingly Salafist Islamist in character, championing Shariah law, martyrdom, Islamic caliphates, and anti-infidelism over Chechen or Caucasus nationalism and independence, anticolonialism, and anti-Russian elements.4

I will examine anti-Americanism, anti-Westernism, and anti-Semitism-all of which for purposes of brevity I refer to at times as anti-infidelism-among Russia's various Muslim orientations as reflected in the jihadists' and the moderate Muslim elite's discourses on global affairs. Anti-American messages from the outside Muslim world, Russia's Islamic media and elite, and non-Islamic Russian media are among the factors that foster such sentiments among Russia's Muslims. I focus on Muslim articulations because Western media and think tanks have covered anti-infidelism extensively, while coverage of Russia's Muslims has been nonexistent. The Islamic political elite, as the Muslims' leadership and as potential and kinetic ethnoconfessional entrepreneurs, are of pivotal importance for the direction that many of Russia's re-Islamizing ethnic Muslims might take in the future, particularly in relation to jihad against Russian or other infidels. The Islamic elite play the key role in Russian politics for Muslims and their articulations in the media possess the potential to turn Russia's mainstream Muslims against the "infidel." There is considerable anti-infidelism, especially anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, among Russia's Caucasus jihadists, the official and unofficial Muslim elite, and even simple ethnic Muslims.

Anti-Infidelism among Russia's Jihadists

The ChRI jihadists articulate the most virulent anti-infidelism among Russia's Muslims and, to a great degree, their discourse surpasses traditional Russian anti-Westernism and anti-Semitism and rising anti-Americanism. The ChRI leaders' statements are particularly instructive because they are representative of Russia's larger jihadist network, for which the ChRI serves as a hub for nodes around the North Caucasus and elsewhere, and are influencing not only its more Sufi and nationalist operatives but also some Muslims across Russia.

Some top ChRI jihadists have not been shy about criticizing the United States and stating their affection for Osama bin Laden. …

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