Terrorist colleges rife, says leader

July 21, 2000

Some Islamic schools and colleges in Russia are turning into breeding grounds for terrorism, according to the supreme mufti (Muslim leader) of Russia and the European members of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Talgat Tajuddin said that a number of Islamic colleges were promulgating the teachings of Wahabism - an 18th-century reform movement that demands its followers dedicate themselves to God and treat all other Muslims as enemies.

The mufti said that at one Islamic college in Buguruslan, Orenburg Province, students are issued with textbooks saying that anyone who is not a Wahabi should be killed.

Such books are nothing other than "training manuals for kamikaze terrorists", he added. This is contrary to the teachings of Islam, which rules that a holy war may be declared only in the face of external danger, not against one's fellow countrymen and women or when there is no threat to the faith.

Muslims in Russia, the mufti said, are free to build as many mosques as they please. To declare a holy war under such circumstances was "utterly absurd", he said.

According to the mufti, the Wahabi doctrines are taught at certain colleges in Tatarstan, where there is widespread resentment against moves by Russian President Vladimir Putin to restrict the republic's autonomy. Graduates of these colleges, he said, have gone to fight in Chechnya - on the side of the rebels.

The colleges are "under the control of radical foreign Islamists", he alleged, as are some Muslim religious leaders in Russia. Wahabis are organising summer camps for Russian Muslim teenagers, where instructors from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait select promising students for Wahabi-oriented higher education abroad.

Incidents involving Islamic extremists in traditionally Muslim areas of the former Soviet Union have escalated.

The most notorious was last August when armed fighters invaded Kyrgyzstan and took hostages, including a group of Japanese geologists.

Mr Tajuddin issued his warning the day after the Council of Russian Muftis condemned Wahabism. This was "nothing but hypocrisy", he said, because during the crisis over the Kyrgyzstan kidnappings, council head Ravil Gaynutdin wrote that Wahabism was "one of the traditional trends" in Islam and contained "nothing disgraceful".

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