More Misunderstanders of Islam and Ramadan sow mayhem in the name of Allah in Tatarstan. "Fight over Islam, money and power brings violence to Volga," by Thomas Grove for Reuters, July 27 (thanks to Maxwell):
KAZAN, RUSSIA - Not far from glitzy boulevards where an oil boom has sent up stadiums and high-rises overlooking the Volga River, women in headscarves wander through Islamic bookstores selling pamphlets on the institution of sharia in Russia.
Kazan, capital of Russia's mainly-Muslim Tatarstan region, has long had an image as a showcase of religious tolerance. But that reputation was shattered last week by car bomb and shooting attacks carried out only hours before the start of the holy month of Ramadan.
On the wall outside the bookshop, a flyer in the local Tatar language calls Muslims to unite against the region's top religious leader, Mufti Ildus Faizov, who was wounded in the attacks which also killed his deputy.
"Things will only get worse here and Muslims will be the ones who suffer the most," said Anisa Karabayeva, 43, her face framed by a white hijab, or traditional headscarf.
We see that the victimhood game is played even in Tatarstan.
"Will there be more bombs? Probably," she says flatly, standing in front of a display case stocked with Korans and prayer rugs.
The attacks came against a background of anger among many Muslims who complain that the authorities in Tatarstan are restricting Islam in the name of fighting radicalism. It is a dispute that also involves a struggle for money and influence in the increasingly prosperous oil-producing region....
"Today Islam is growing strongly in Kazan... But there are different sects and movements that you simply cannot control," said Ramil Mingarayev, an imam at the al Marjani Mosque.
"We try to fight radicals, we have tried to clean our city of them, but there are hidden mosques, where they gather and distribute forbidden literature, in basements and in the forests."
Some of those fears arise from threats made by North Caucasus militants far away. Russia's most wanted man, Chechen Islamist guerrilla leader Doku Umarov, called for an uprising among Russia's Muslims last year, mentioning Tatarstan by name.
"I want to appeal to the Muslim brothers who live on Russian-occupied Muslim land... I call on you to destroy the enemies of Allah wherever you are. I call on you to destroy them where your hand reaches and to open fronts of jihad," he said in a video posted on insurgency-affiliated website Kavkaz Centre.
Since becoming head of the Tatarstan branch of the Russian state's Spiritual Directorate of Muslims in April last year, Faizov has been praised by Kremlin authorities for what they say are measures to clamp down on radical sentiment and encourage traditional forms of Islamic practice seen as more moderate....
"It's good we have the authorities. Without them there would be chaos," said Zakhid Anovarov, a burly 20-year-old student with a thin black beard.
"But it's not a just system because it's a man-made system. If we were governed by shariah, then life would be better, more just," he said of the Islamic law code....
Zarifa Kamilova came to Kazan in 2004 to escape the aftermath of the second Chechen War in her hometown of Grozny, where federal forces had toppled a separatist government.
Like other Chechens in Kazan, she was drawn to its Muslim majority and the possibility to find work. But she says she fears pressure by the authorities will marginalize Muslims, leading more and more of them to radicalism.
"I have already taken five books off my shelves this year because they were considered too radical," she said, referring to an ever-expanding list of literature outlawed by Russia's Justice Ministry. She and other Muslims say they have felt increasing pressure since Faizov assumed his post.
"This alone is turning normal people into radicals. It's not that more people are becoming radical it's that their definition is encompassing more and more people," she said....
TAKEN IN THE NIGHT
In his battle with radical Islam, perhaps none of Faizov's efforts were as divisive as his demand that imams of all mosques undergo a course in traditional Hanafi Islam, the movement traditionally associated with Tatarstan.
In December, angry Muslims stormed the main mosque in the town of Almetevsk, 270 km (170 miles) and for hours refused to let local religious authorities enter. The confrontation was eventually defused by Faizov, but resentment still burns.
Near Almetevsk, in the village of Novoye Nadyrovo where roosters and chickens wander freely along gravel paths, authorities removed the local imam, Ilnar Kharisov, from his post a few months ago. Friends say he was detained on Friday night, the day after the explosions in Kazan....
"They've taken all the good imams away and they've replaced them with clowns in their places and they protect them there with police. People are very unhappy here," said a neighbour of Kharisov who gave his name only as Ramil.
What's that, Ramil? Clowns, you say? Reza Aslan is now an imam in Tatarstan?