How do jihadist movements get recruits? Pravda (yes, Pravda) gives a hint in this profile of young Chechen Muslim radical named Ruslan.
Accompanied by a smart photo of a young man in fatigues giving what appears to be a fascist salute, the article says that “the life of Ruslan is typical for most Chechen young people who live in this war-torn country. . . . In Chechnya radical ideas often mislead young people who join so called Jihad warriors.”
Note then, that it was ideas, not poverty or desperation or other fashionable causes, that led Ruslan and others to become mujahedin “” jihad warriors.
What idea? The idea of uniting all Muslims “” the same idea expressed by Osama bin Laden, Omar Bakri, the leaders of Hizb-ut-Tahrir and others who call for the restoration of the caliphate. Ruslan himself, says Pravda, was “studying at History Department of Ingush State University he met senior student Isa who invited Ruslan to his home. There for the first time Ruslan heard about the need to unite all true Moslems (Vakhabbits) in religious brotherhoods to fight the opponents of their religion.”
Vakhabbits are, despite the word’s appearance, not Russian jackrabbits. They’re Wahhabis, a term that the Russian press tends to use rather loosely for all radical Muslims, whether or not they have an actual connection to the Saudi Wahhabis.
“Ruslan remembered the cold, fanatical look of the speaker’s eyes. This middle-aged man gave many examples from his life at war “” attacks, fights, long marches “” which impressed the young listeners. The man’s name was Umar and he was the leader in a Brotherhood in Dagestan. For about six months Ruslan and his friends visited Isa’s place. They were told much about the principles of the false religion “” Vakhabism [Wahhabism]. Ruslan started missing classes because he had to meet Umar very often. The brotherhood leader wanted to persuade Ruslan and his friends to quit the university by telling that the true Moslem needs only spiritual education. Spending much time with his new spiritual leader, Ruslan could hardly pass his exams at university.”
This parallels the experience of the Yemeni Muslims in the Al-Qaeda cell in Lakawanna, New York, who were told that they were bad Muslims for being secularized, and had to devote themselves to jihad in order to avoid hell.
(Meanwhile, Wahhabism is not, as it is characterized in this article, a separate religion. It is a strict reformist movement within Islam which claims to sweep away later additions and restore the pure religion of the Qur’an and the Sunna, the traditions of the Prophet. This fact shows through later in the article: in the military camp where Ruslan ended up, recruits “were read literature on Vakhabbism [Wahhabism] by the teachers “” Arabs who could hardly speak Russian. They enforced very strict discipline according to the Shariat laws.”)