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Embattled North Ossetian Mufti Steps Down

Ali-haji Yevteyev was a "unique experiment."

Ali-haji Yevteyev was a "unique experiment."

The Spiritual Board of Muslims of North Ossetia (DUMSO) accepted late on May 24 after a prolonged discussion the letter of resignation submitted by the republic's mufti, Ali-haji Yevteyev, four days earlier.

Yevteyev had been subjected to repeated criticism since the publication on May 2 of what the news agency Regnum billed as an interview he gave to one of its journalists.

Yevteyev subsequently said that the "discussion," in which he made disparaging comments about the Russian Orthodox clergy and admitted to having studied in Nalchik with two young theologians who subsequently became leading figures in the North Caucasus resistance, was never intended for publication.

Leading DUMSO member Khajimurat Gatsalov said that body expressed its support for Yevteyev the day before he submitted his resignation. Gatsalov noted that the DUMSO is not empowered to name a successor to Yevteyev; a congress of the republic's Muslims must be convened to do so.

It is not clear why the DUMSO decided belatedly to accept Yevteyev's resignation.

Writing on May 26 in the Russian daily "Vremya novostei," Ivan Sukhov pointed out that the appointment of Yevteyev, an ethnic Russian sympathetic to the Salafi school of Islam espoused by the North Caucasus Muslim insurgency, was a "unique experiment" that might have resulted in a broad dialogue between Salafis and adherents of the Shafii legal school of Sunni Islam officially approved and promoted by the Russian leadership.

"The idea of drawing Salafis into a civilized dialogue without the use of force has been floated ever more frequently in recent years by politicians whose responsibilities encompass the North Caucasus," Sukhov wrote.

According to official statistics, some 15 percent of North Ossetia's population of 700,000+ are Muslims; Yevteyev cited the higher figure of 30 percent.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.