Over the past five years, Khamzat-haji Chumakov, imam of the Nasyr-Kort mosque on the outskirts of Nazran, has acquired cult status among young believers in Ingushetia thanks to his sermons denouncing bloodshed and Islamic extremism and exhorting his listeners to remain true to Ingush national values.
Ingushetian human rights activist Magomed Mutsolgov commented in a recent blog post
that the Ingushetian authorities should treasure Chumakov as an asset and an ally in their efforts to halt the stream of young men who "head for the forest" to join the Islamic insurgency. Instead, however, they have apparently decided he constitutes a threat.
Official permission for Chumakov to address a gathering in Malgobek on July 15 was withdrawn at the last minute. Days later, security personnel stopped and threatened his nephew. Police have confiscated 362 DVDs
of Chumakov's Friday sermons. An as-yet-unconfirmed report claims that Chumakov has been summoned to appear on August 7
before Ingushetia's Shari'a Court.
Chumakov studied Islamic theology in Egypt. In September 2010, he lost a leg when a bomb attached to his car exploded. Ingushetian law enforcement officials blamed that murder attempt on the Islamic insurgency, the activities of which Chumakov had unequivocally condemned
But the head of the Ingushetian insurgency wing denied responsibility
for the blast. "Despite the differences in our views on some issues, we acknowledge that Khamzat Chumakov is known in Ingushetia as one of the few principled, courageous, and unbribable clerics, and his death could benefit only the enemies of the Ingush people," he wrote.
Chumakov's reputation as a preacher has spread far beyond Ingushetia. In recent months, he has travelled to Rostov-na-Donu
, and even Moscow
to speak to Ingush communities there. In March, he launched his own website, ingislam.ru.
According to blog posts on ingushetiyaru.org, the reason the Ingushetian authorities mistrust Chumakov is that some of his sermons focus on "political" issues, including corruption. (Ingush oppositionists have repeatedly denounced republic head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov for allegedly turning a blind eye to blatant corruption within his entourage and even his own family.)
Yevkurov professes himself an admirer of Chumakov: he visited him in a Moscow hospital
after the attempt on his life two years ago, and again when he returned to Ingushetia
four months later.
Yevkurov said last week
he had gone more than once to hear Chumakov preach and respected him deeply. At the same time, he said Chumakov was meddling in politics by speaking on secular topics, and had "violated established order" by travelling outside Ingushetia to speak without first securing permission from the republic's Council of Muftis.
Yevkurov further alleged that the proposed meeting in Malgobek in mid-July had not been approved by the local municipality and therefore constituted a violation of the law on public meetings. Yevkurov stressed that "no one is planning to persecute" Chumakov -- and threatened to sue Mutsolgov for libel for suggesting otherwise.