Sheikhs, Salafis, and the State: The Evolution of Muslim Politics in Chechnya
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractCurrent discourse regarding the contemporary status of Islam in Chechnya tends toward one of two narratives. In the first, Islam becomes merely a political tool wielded in the hands of nationalists, warlords, and now the pro-Russian Chechen government seeking to unite the North Caucasian ethnic groups in the aftermath of a Soviet collapse. In the second, Islam is bound up in the Chechen identity and viewed as a form of resistance to Russia and distinguishing cultural trait. In both narratives, Chechen Muslims are studied in isolation from wider trends within the Central Asian region and the greater Islamic realm. This paper situates events in Chechnya within the context of movements across the Middle East and Central Asia. Through the examination of symbols, rituals, and rhetoric employed by the state and by dissident groups within Chechnya, I analyze the current struggle between the state and dissident Islamists in Chechnya to establish a dominant discourse of Islamic practice. Through this analysis, I move beyond labels of "fundamentalist" Islam and "traditional" Islam often assigned within the Chechen context to demonstrate how Islamic tradition and practice are being re-imagined in the wake of the Soviet collapse and the failed separatist conflict in Chechnya.
Degree ProgramHonors College