The Russian Caliphate
By German Sadulayev, special to Prague Watchdog
The Caliphate is dead, isn’t it? Yes,in a sense it is: nowadays it has been replaced by various countries ruled by Sunnis, Shiites, conservatives, liberals and even socialists. All of those countries differ from one another, but they all seem to have one thing in common – the Pax Arabica.
What has really happened is that since the collapse of the formal Caliphate, the actual Caliphate has merely widened. Now its strategy is to divide the kingdom from within, for everyone knows what happens to kingdoms that are divided against themselves. Half of India. Half of Africa. Very soon, half of Europe. Two families live in the same city, on the same street, in the same building, but one of them is living in Belgium and the other in the Caliphate. No, the Caliphate is not dead. It is alive, not only as an idea, but as a reality that is sometimes explicit and sometimes hidden. And if a spectre is haunting Europe today, it is the spectre of the Caliphate.
And the Jihad, the holy war for the expansion of the Caliphate, continues. The most important battle must be fought in heaven, between ideas and systems of philosophy. And it seems that the battle is over, and the West has lost it. Here on earth, the West has the big guns, the rockets, the bombs, the rapid response units, the special-purpose forces, the naval fleets and the nuclear weapons. While all that the handful of Islamic fanatics have is some rusty old AK-47s and a bit of plastic explosive in a barrel.
What can the West offer to counter radical Islam in the ideological war? This is an important question, for the spoils in this war are the hearts and minds of people, especially the young, and especially those of the young who are active and self-sacrificing, and who yearn for justice. The philosophy of happy consumption? That is a feeble response to the challenge. Besides, the guys from the Third World have already cottoned on to the fact that it's a fraud. Happy consumption is still only forthe chosen few, while what awaits them is slavery and poverty.
The traditional religions of the West? That card has already been played. The sacrifice of the medieval knights saved Europe. But in the second round of the Crusades there is not enough Christianity, not even enough for Europe itself, for domestic consumption, let alone for export.
Socialism? That worked until quite recently. Now Europe has rejected the ideas of socialism, and Islam has raised the neglected banner of the struggle for equality and justice.
National socialism? Perhaps. But that would mean war, of the cruellest type imaginable. And the West would have to fight on two fronts – in its own rear. There would be a fifth column of anti-fascists, movements for human rights and tolerance.
In recent times Russia has, though only peripherally, become part of the Western world, and is therefore now in the camp of the Caliphate’s enemies. The Soviet Union did not fear the Caliphate, for in Communism it had a fairly powerful ideological weapon of its own. The battle in heaven was fought on equal terms. This is acknowledged even by Khattab, who in fought against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Later, in Chechnya, Khattab said: "In Afghanistan the Russians had a cause for which they died, bur here they have nothing.”
Having renounced Communism, Russia has found itself facing the Caliphate unarmed, with its ideological pants down: money-grabbing, private interest and the worship of material prosperity have not proved a winner in the game of ideas. The philosophy of Communism only had the external appearance of worldliness. Since the ideal society was forever projected into the future, Communism acquired a religious transcendence. And the slogans of brotherhood, equality, justice, the ideals of heroism and self-sacrifice greatly inhibited the unworthy aims of private interest.
Russia’s peculiarity is that it already has a Caliphate of its own, both in Russia itself and in some of its subject territories, like the North Caucasus, where there is a high concentration of followers of Islam, and where a handful of fanatics have already declared an "Emirate". The "Dar al-Islam" is turning out to be the territory of Islam – not, as we used to think, a secular state with a multi-confessional population. A Dar al-Islam with all the ensuing consequences.
I don’t want to live in the "territory of Islam” – and I am not the only one. Most of those who sincerely consider themselves Muslims don’t want to live in this "territory of Islam” either. But the distinguishing characteristic of the new Caliphate is that no one is going to ask. As the late Said Buryatsky said, Jihad does not require the consent the Umma or of Islamic clerics. Because the "Caliphate" of the fanatics is a self-contained reality, self-reproducing and self-expanding, like a cancerous growth.
So now Russia has discovered its own special path, its own method of ideological struggle with radical Islam. The way to stop the spread of "incorrect" Islam is to increase the dissemination of the "correct" kind. This brilliant idea was voiced not long ago by President Medvedev, who announced it at a meeting with the heads of Russia’s religious denominations. To prevent the spread of Islamic fanaticism Russia intends to teach Islam in every school, to build a mosque with a madrassa in every village, and to open a 24-hour Islamic TV channel – all at federal expense.
Although the mullahs and the muftis may be willing to go along with this, and have said so, what about Russia's officials themselves, do they believe in it? Is it possible to extinguish a fire by dousing it with gasoline? The more persistent of Russia’s Muslims will learn Arabic. And there will be more and more of them as Islam spreads at a federal level, inspired and supported by the Government in those areas of Russia where Islam has no connection with the national culture and is not a part of the life and traditions of the people.
True religious faith is spread not by atheistic rulers with an interest in worldly gain but by sincere followers and by saints. History shows that nothing good can be expected from an alliance of religion with the powerful of this world. Won’t the Russian government’s “nurturing” and “promotion” of Islam lead to a result that is the opposite of what it wants – to the growth of radicalism and extremism, and ultimately to the overthrow of the Russian state?
(Translation by DM)