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Chechen Leaders Slam Proposed Creation Of Shari'a Courts

Dagir Khasavov
Dagir Khasavov
Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov and Chechen mufti Sultan-hadji Mirzayev have both harshly criticized the proposal by Chechen legal scholar Dagir Khasavov to establish Shari'a courts in Russia for the benefit of those Russian Muslims who do not want to “get bogged down in the Russian legal system,” which they do not trust.

Mirzayev served in the late 1990s as head of the Shari'a court of the quasi-independent Chechen Republic Ichkeria.

Chechnya’s six deputies to the Russian parliament have issued a similar joint statement criticizing Khasavov as an “ignoramus” who agreed to participate in a “dirty provocation” at the behest of persons not named.

Khasavov, who is based in Moscow, advocated Shari'a courts as an alternative to complement Russia’s civil justice system in an interview on April 24 with REN-TV that, according to his son Arslan, has not been shown in its entirety. Instead, only selected statements from the interview were broadcast. The most controversial, and that which occasioned the most negative comment, was Khasavov’s warning that the Muslim community would respond to efforts to prevent the introduction of a Shari'a court with a “river of blood” in Moscow. Khasavov later distanced himself from that remark, implying that he had been goaded into making an intemperate and inappropriate comment.

Kadyrov criticized Khasavov’s remarks as “provocative” and “populist." He implied that Khasavov did not know what he was talking about and had been clearly coopted by someone with the express intention of discrediting Islam.

Kadyrov went on to claim that his late father Akhmad-hadji Kadyrov had argued two decades ago against the establishment of Shari'a courts in Chechnya. Kadyrov recalled that the leadership of the Chechen Republic Ichkeria, who, Kadyrov alleged, did not pray and had no understanding of Islam, introduced Shari'a law in Chechnya and thereby “plunged the republic into chaos.”

Those comments are misleading, however.

Then-Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov did, indeed, introduce Shari'a law in early 1999, but he did so unwillingly, under pressure from the radical faction headed by Shamil Basaev. And crucially, Akhmad-hadji Kadyrov, who was Chechnya’s mufti at that time, did not publicly object or condemn that move. As for the claim that Maskhadov didn’t pray, there is video footage on YouTube showing him at prayer.

Mirzayev for his part said Khasavov does not have the right to speak on behalf of other Muslims. Mirzayev characterized Khasavov as a “pseudo-Muslim who does not understand Islam and Shari'a law.”

"Shari'a exists in Russia and Muslims live by it,” Mirzayev declared.

Mirzayev served under Maskhadov as chairman of the Chechen Republic Ichkeria's Shari'a court.

Kadyrov’s vehement rejection of Shari'a law is all the more puzzling and inconsistent in light of his efforts to resurrect adat (traditional Chechen law) as one of the foundations of the republic’s moral code and Chechen national identity. One wonders whether his reaction would have been as harsh if Khasavov had not been a Chechen. After all, Ingushetia has a Shari'a court. Ingush oppositionist Magomed Khazbiyev tried unsuccessfully in December to force it to summon republic head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and Central Committee chairman Musa Yevloyev to answer questions about the apparent rigging of the results of the voting in Ingushetia in the Russian State Duma election.

Arslan Khasavov said today that when his father showed up at Ekho Moskvy to give an interview, he was intercepted by men who claimed to be members of Kadyrov’s security service and decided against going ahead with the interview.

Kadyrov himself was quoted two years ago in an interview with the French daily “Le Figaro” as saying that, for him personally, Shari'a law takes precedence over Russian civil law. His spokesman Alvi Karimov immediately said Kadyrov had been misquoted.

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.


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