We have taken up arms to establish laws (interview with Movladi Udugov, part I)
Interview with Movladi Udugov, head of the Informational-Analytical Service of the Caucasus Emirate
Prague Watchdog: In the pages of the Kavkaz-Center web site you recently quoted a Chechen proverb which says "A man is not one who knows how to fight, but one who knows who his enemies are,” or words to that effect. Let’s start with a list of your enemies.
Movladi Udugov: My personal enemies?
PW: We can make a distinction between them. First, let’s say, your personal enemies, then your enemies as a Muslim.
MU: I see. I want to make it clear that this quotation is borrowed from Shamil [Basayev]. After his death an article was published where it said that he liked to repeat that saying. Regarding enemies: where personal ones are concerned, each of us knows very well who his enemy is, and our enemies know whether we are their enemy or not. So I shall leave my personal enemies out of it – we must deal with them ourselves. As for the concepts of "enemy" and "enmity" – if we are to judge them in terms of politics, inter-state relations or ideological struggle, then one doesn’t need to spend too much time philosophizing. It’s all in the palm of one’s hand. There is powerful opposition at a global level, and we have no shortage of enemies, but we are divided. Naturally, the main enemy is Russia, Moscow, the Russian state, the empire, which for several centuries now has been trying every fifty years or so to destroy the Chechen people and the Muslims of the North Caucasus. And it’s not just the Caucasus. People in all the Muslim-inhabited territories that were conquered by Russia are periodically subjected to genocide. So if we are to speak of the adversary as the source of a threat that involves violence, enemy number one is, as I said, Russia. With this enemy we are at war. There are casualties on both sides. And I don’t think it will really be possible to solve this problem at a political level, as many would like. Aggression is inherent to Russia, and Russia will go on attacking us and trying to kill us for as long as it has the strength to do so.
PW: If the problem can’t be solved by political means, does that mean that one of the parties to the conflict must simply vanish from the face of the earth, be destroyed? Either the Chechens or the Russians?
MU: Wiping things from the face of the earth is not the prerogative of any nation, state, group of persons or person. It is the prerogative of the Almighty. He disposes of the destinies of nations and decides whom to destroy, and whom to leave. That problem does not cause us concern. Another point along the way is to reflect on the prospects of coexistence with the enemy. There are many factors involved. But if we are to talk in terms of one side being bound to lose or, conversely, achieving victory, one often recalls the saying: "All wars end in negotiations." Yes, indeed, sooner or later negotiations are inevitable, but of the two contracting parties one is certain to be the loser. Or military action may cease because both sides run out of strength and resources and find it unprofitable to continue the conflict.
So to present the matter in terms of one side being bound to destroy the other is the wrong approach. It would be more correct to say that one of the adversaries must either grow weaker or stronger. And then you get a situation where one side finds it unprofitable to wage war, while the other remains active and continues to exert pressure. The balance of force may be established in such a way that our enemy will be compelled to offer us peace and negotiations. In that case we shall see how far the proposed conditions correspond to our interests, the goals for which we are now fighting. We don’t just keep fighting for fighting’s sake, after all. This war must undermine Russia’s power, depriving her of the ability to commit another aggression in the future. That is the main thing.
PW: In the Koran, Allah says: "And fight them until there is no more persecution, and (all) religion belongs to Allah." The problem is that the Emirate doesn’t simply base its priorities in the need to defend the Chechens and Muslims of the Caucasus and secure decent living conditions for them, but also in the establishment of the true faith. So if he is an unbeliever, must the enemy either be converted or destroyed?
MU: It’s not at all as easy as the question suggests. Today we are fighting a war with a specific enemy which is trying to kill us. He came to our land and occupied us. He is trying to foist his ways customs on us, impose his law. Today we are resisting the enemy. And what will our next steps be? All the steps, the actions, the logic are clearly stated in Sharia. In Islamic law there are precedents for defining the principles of coexistence with unbelievers. In his day the Prophet in his day concluded a treaty with the kufr, as is stated in the Koran. He concluded a truce.
The question is not one of declaring war on the whole world. We must first solve the problem of how to survive. But if we start broaching questions of global confrontation, we shall go far astray from our theme. We are talking specifically about the Caucasus Emirate which was proclaimed on 25th Ramadan last autumn.
PW: We should have phrased it more precisely. Does the reference to the practice of the Prophet mean that you will tolerate peaceful relations with the infidels and the possibility of living in conflict-free coexistence with them?
MU: Of course. There are many such moments in the history of Islam. In the places where the authority of the Muslims was established there was no coercion in religion, as the Koran states. There are fixed conditions for the spreading of Islam and relations with the countries of the kufr.
But if we are talking about our struggle, I can say that today the Muslims of the Caucasus are moving from a strategy of defence towards a strategy of war. That is quite a different approach. And in this context, I don’t think that the war will stop for as long as Russia continues to have even the slightest opportunity of committing aggression.
PW: It doesn’t really matter how you assess the reasons, but because of either error or ignorance a considerable number of North Caucasus Muslims profess what is called traditional Islam, i.e. the kind of Islam that has incorporated pre-Islamic customs and beliefs. These people consider themselves citizens of Russia as a secular state, and are quite satisfied with the existing order and way of life. They are totally unwilling to live by the law which do you consider mandatory for all true believers. What is to be done with these people?
MU: The formulation of the question is not correct. Russia came to a territory where people lived according to Islam, the true law. There was Sharia. The Russians came and killed, robbed, raped, destroyed millions of people, entire nations, in order to impose their authority ...
PW: Stop, stop! Can we pause for a moment? There are not a few episodes in history where some nations conquered others. And, nations in general must have quite a few claims on one another. Two hundred, three hundred or even two thousand years ago, someone took something from someone, someone was killed, wars of conquest were fought, territory repeatedly changed hands. Must we now return to the conditions, customs and boundaries that prevailed in the kingdom of Urartu, or before?
MU: I will explain my position once again. First, for nations to understand what they really want, they have to be free.
PW: A referendum, Movladi?
MU: No, not a referendum. I wish you wouldn’t keep interrupting me. Once again I repeat: in order to understand what nations want, and to ensure that they have a precise grasp of the principles they want to live by, they need to achieve political independence. Today, these nations and their territories are occupied. So in order to conceive how events will unfold, how life in the North Caucasus will change, the Islamic lands must first of all be freed from occupation.
With regard to the question "What is to be done with these people?" – first, let me remind you once again: in Islam there is no compulsion in matters of religion. A second point: the question of whether the type of Islam that’s observed is traditional or not, of what version of Islam is followed – this is not a problem of Islam itself. It’s a problem of political power and occupation. When people receive education they will see the real nature of Islam, which must be accepted and by which it is essential to live. No one is going to drive anyone into the mosques by force.
PW: And who will offer the education and watch to see that it meets all the requirements of true faith?
MU: Seventy years of Soviet rule and the subsequent years of democratic Russia have most tragically affected the Muslim consciousness. Attempts were made to destroy it every day, and this, of course, led to the most lamentable results. Today, the Caucasus has a huge number of non-Muslims. They are Muslims by birth, but they don’t adhere to any of the tenets of Islam in their lives, and they don’t even try to. And it’s not that people don’t want to accept Islam, but that their territories are occupied by an alien political system. They can’t obtain a true picture of Islam. Today in Russia an unfortunate publisher was brought before a court for publishing a book called The Muslim Identity. I would not even call this absurd. It’s a natural process, a demonstration of the fact that Muslims are deprived of any possibility of practising their religion under the rule of the occupier. In Russia today there is a natural process that involves the strengthening of colonial tendencies and the spread of a colonial war against Islam. Islam is primarily an ideology. Two ideologies can never get along peacefully on the same territory, not matter how much we would want them to. Today in Moscow that is well understood and known. There they see that a man who seems to be reading a harmless book about Muslim identity which describes the moral qualities of the believer – how he should arrange his relations with his parents and family, how he should behave towards other people – such a man is, by his very nature, becoming a danger to the authorities.
And the proposal to take current reality as a basis for the future is in itself dishonest. To come and seize one’s land and then say: "Well, what can you do now, that’s just how it is!" That is wrong. First we’ll restore what was de facto smashed, destroyed, corrupted, and then we will ask questions like what shall we do and how.
PW: All right, let's switch to the subjunctive mood. Let’s suppose that everything has been restored, and that Islamic education is widely practised. What if a significant number of people refuse to follow the norms of the true faith? Is it possible to coerce them into the true faith? After all, Sharia prescribes coercion of that kind.
MU: Every country has its laws, its Constitution, established norms of behaviour, a system. Now the people who don’t want to observe the laws of a particular state don’t need to live in it – they can go away and live in another country. And those who want to live in this country must simply obey its laws. That is all.
PW: But in most modern countries the laws are established by democratic procedures. They’ve been discussed, accepted, the nation itself has shaped the conditions for its own existence by various means. With you, the principle is totally different: the law is established from above, and its source is considered to be Allah.
MU: Absolutely true.
PW: So there is no provision for democratic procedures. Today's law for the North Caucasian peoples was worked out in the forest and the mountains. Let’s suppose that, as a result of your victory, it’s established in all the territories of the region. All those who don’t want to obey it will have to be coerced into doing so, or else emigrate. Is that correct?
MU: The question is understandable. For the nations of Europe, the “correct” procedure involves consulting the population, holding referendums or parliamentary elections. And Parliament must sit and devise some laws. For us Muslims, that position is totally absurd. We say that human beings are not capable of devising a just law. We believe that the law has been sent down to earth by the Almighty, by God. Nations, politicians and parliaments have no right to devise laws. The law is given by our Creator. For us the position of the democratic European societies is criminal and absurd, because you have falsely claimed for yourselves the prerogative of devising laws for human beings. You are trying to remove this prerogative from the Creator, who gave birth to the nations, settled them on the land, gave them laws and explained those laws to them with the help of the Prophets.
Today the democratic countries have launched a new world war. They are attacking the Muslims in order to impose on them the laws of democracy, to impose the ways and customs they themselves have devised. We say: "We don’t want that, leave us alone!" But they don’t leave us, and they don’t leave us alone. The question is put this way: "Some people don’t want to." Well, if they don’t, so what? We – who are a part of the people, a part of the population, a part of the nations of the Caucasus – have taken up arms to establish those laws which are natural for this territory.
The second part of the interview can be read here.
Kavkaz Center archive photo
(Translation by DM)