Last Updated: Friday, 11 July 2014, 13:14 GMT

Religious Violence Hits Relatively Quiet North Ossetia

Publisher Jamestown Foundation
Publication Date 18 January 2013
Citation / Document Symbol Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 10 Issue: 10
Cite as Jamestown Foundation, Religious Violence Hits Relatively Quiet North Ossetia, 18 January 2013, Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 10 Issue: 10, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/50fe81622.html [accessed 13 July 2014]
Comments Mairbek Vatchagaev
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In North Ossetia-Alania, a relatively quiet place compared to other republics of the North Caucasus, 2012 ended with a high-profile killing. The murder could have serious consequences for the socio-political situation in this republic.

On December 27, the 38-year-old deputy mufti of North Ossetia, Ibragim (Irbek) Dudarov, was stopped by unknown people as he returned from Vladikavkaz to his home village of Chmi and shot dead. According to investigators, five shots were fired, including one to the victim's head (www.rg.ru/2012/12/27/reg-skfo/muft.html). Investigators are looking into several possible motives for the killing—criminal, domestic or connected to the victim's professional activities (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/217942/). Dudarov, the father of four young children, was the only member of the North Ossetian Spiritual Board of Muslims who had a higher Islamic education degree. According to some reports, he received a degree from the well-known Jamia-tul Madina Islamic University in Saudi Arabia; according to others, Dudarov received his degree from a different Saudi institution—the International Islamic University in Er-Riyadh (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/217947/). He studied abroad for a total of 12 years. Dudarov worked as deputy mufti for five years after returning home from abroad, during which time he was responsible for educational projects. In April 2011 he was elected a senior executive officer of the North Ossetian Spiritual Board of Muslims and also was the imam of the main mosque in Vladikavkaz (http://ria.ru/incidents/20121227/916419203.html#ixzz2GGhWMl00).

The murder of Ibragim Dudarov was the first killing of a high-ranking Muslim cleric in North Ossetia. Killings of religious figures have become routine in the North Caucasus during the past few years. Nearly two-dozen imams were killed throughout the region in the past four years (http://ria.ru/spravka/20121227/916408367.html) and 10 of those murders took place in 2012 (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/217942/). The vast majority of those killings occurred in Dagestan. Many of the slain Muslim clerics were caught in the struggle between the jihadists and the federal forces. Most of the time, it was clear who killed whom.

The quiet life of the North Ossetian Muslim community was disturbed in May 2010, when the republic's then-mufti, Ali-Haji Yevteyev, shared his views on Islam in the republic with the press. In an interview, Yevteyev carelessly told the journalist that he was acquainted with Emir Khattab in the mid-1990s, that he would like to see Ossetia a completely Muslim republic, and so on (http://i-r-p.ru/page/stream-document/index-26221.html). This fairly innocuous interview provoked a flurry of criticism not so much from the republic's Christians as from Yevteyev's colleagues on the Spiritual Board of Muslims of North Ossetia. They accused Yevteyev of extremism and disrespect for Christianity, so he was eventually forced to step down as mufti and leave the country, although no criminal case was launched against him (www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=authority&id=1415). Yevteyev currently resides in Egypt. Since then there has been no conflict related to the Spiritual Board of Muslims.

The same peace and tranquility in North Ossetia did not apply to relations between the Orthodox and Muslim Ossetians. In February 2011, a confrontation between the two groups of Ossetians surprised many observers. Residents of several villages in North Ossetia's Kurtat gorge protested the construction of a minaret and prayer house in the village of Khidikus, despite the fact that it was taking place on the private property of a Muslim resident of the village, Ruslan Rubaev (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/181015/). Residents of the Kurtat gorge said they were against the building of the mosque because their area was an ancient Christian territory and Muslims did not reside there traditionally. Another strange event followed on May 31, 2011, when all 15 activists of the Muslim community in Vladikavkaz were arrested (http://north-osetia.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/186474/). These events changed the views of analysts about the republic, where the ratio of Christians and Muslims is approximately 80/20.

In contrast to other killings of Islamic clerics in the North Caucasus, Dudarov's murder is hard to explain. There is no confrontation between Sufis and radicals in the republic as in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan. There are no visible conflicts between radical Muslims and the official clerics in North Ossetia, as in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachaevo-Cherkessia. So who could have been angry with the only certified Islamic theologian in Ossetia?

According to everyone who knew him, Ibragim Dudarov was not politically active; moreover, he was fairly apolitical (http://kavpolit.com/zhizn-i-smert-imama/). The reason for his behavior is simple. Having studied in Saudi Arabia, he could not have escaped tight control of the republican and federal security services and police in Russia. To avoid any provocations, he must have publicly demonstrated his unwillingness to have any connection to politics. Since Dudarov was responsible for the educational projects of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of North Ossetia, he was perceived as a threat by those who feared the spread of Islam in Ossetia (www.gazeta.ru/social/2012/12/27/4908154.shtml). At the same time, Dudarov was against splitting Ossetians along religious lines.

According to the chairman of the Islamic Committee of Russia, Geidar Jemal, "the murder of the deputy mufti is a reprisal by the Islamophobic groups of the republic" (www.regnum.ru/news/kavkaz/1610172). The head of the Caucasus studies department at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, Yana Amelina, as always, tried to attribute the crime to the concept of the contagion of Islamic radicalism. "The killing of Ibragim Dudarov is another step toward the ‘bridging' of the united Islamist front through North Ossetia and the further rise of Islamism in Abkhazia and Azerbaijan." It is also possible that the Russian security services killed Dudarov, since this would allow the breakup of the Muslim community system Dudarov carefully constructed among the Muslim youth of the republic.

Regardless of the investigation's results, it is becoming obvious that the Muslim community of North Ossetia-Alania is undergoing the same processes as in the neighboring republics. Consequently, the death of Ibragim Dudarov also should be viewed against the background of Islam's rise across the post-Soviet space. The murder could trigger the expansion of the radicalization of Muslim youth in North Ossetia, and also lead to their joining the ranks of the jihadist movement in the North Caucasus.

Copyright notice: © 2010 The Jamestown Foundation

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