North Ossetia: “The relationship between Muslim communities and the authorities have suddenly become very tense”
“The Role of Islam in North Ossetia,” from Turkish Weekly, with thanks to Skeetstreet:
Once the most stabile [sic] republic(s) of the North Caucasus, North Ossetia is increasingly turning into a region of conflict. Demands for the resignation of North Ossetian President Alexander Dzasokhov, heard practically everywhere in the immediate aftermath of the Beslan tragedy, are not the only threat to stability there. The relationship between Muslim communities and the authorities have suddenly become very tense as well.
Newspaper reports indicate that at least one of the militants who participated in the school seizure in Beslan was an ethnic Ossetian named Vladimir Khodov. A resident of the Ossetian village of Elkhotovo, Khodov joined a group of Chechen militants after graduating from a local madrasa, and at one point served as a cook in the detachment of Ruslan Gelaev. While there is substantial evidence that suggests that other members of Ossetia’s Muslim communities have also joined the ranks of Chechnya’s resistance, very little known about the Muslims of North Ossetia beyond the borders of the republic.
While the majority of Ossetians are Christian, according to official estimates, 15-30 percent of the population is Muslim. The Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz houses the central mosque, built in the beginning of the 20th century. Money for the construction of the mosque came from Azeri oil magnate Murtuza Mukhtarov, who married an Ossetian woman named Tuganova. (The mosque was built in the Egyptian style and has no architectural analogies in the North Caucasus.) But it was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union that a massive religious revival occurred. Islam began to be practiced more openly, with many Muslims adopting so-called Wahhabism, which is what fundamentalism is referred to in the North Caucasus.
The Russians tend to call any form of political or violent Islam “Wahhabism.” The Saudis may indeed be there, but the fact must be faced that even if they are, it isn’t just oil money that helps them win over new adherents: it is a coherent, convincing exegesis of Qur’anic Islam.