Reviews

In a republic of the Northern Caucasus that distinguishes itself from its neighbours by the absence of Sufi paths and of their shaykhs, the author reconstructs the history of ‘New Muslims’ (called ‘Wahhabis’ by all their opponents and by part of the global population) since their appearance in the course of the 1970s. Emerging out of circles of young believers in the Balkar-peopled rural districts of the south of the republic (the El’brus district, in particular), the New Muslim community (jama‘at) was organised into a hierarchy only in the 1990s, with the return of the first graduated students in religion from varied countries of the Near East, among whom Musa (Artur) Mukozhev, the community’s leader and the founder in 1993 of the Islamic Centre of Kabardo-Balkaria, a rival of allegedly more conservative Muslim Spiritual Board of the republic. If the rapid rupture of its connections with Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries brought about serious financial and organisational troubles for the ICKB, nevertheless this new institution managed to maintain unity of action within the community. During a decade, this control permitted Mukozhev and his partners to thwart the movement’s more radical elements. However, ideas like jihad as an armed struggle against infidels and takfir wa’l-hijra (lit. accusation of infidelity and emigration) have gained momentum since the turn of the 2000s, with a first project of paramilitary training camp in 1998, and by several attacks in the mid-2000s ― notably by the spectacular simultaneous assault in Nalchik, by the ‘Iarmuk’ armed jama‘at, against several police precincts in October 2005. Whilst one cannot exclude that Iarmuk jama‘at be a section of the biggest community led by Mukozhev, the latter, in order to escape the flood of repressions that has since then swooped down on Kabard and Balkar ‘Wahhabis’, has developed a set of original initiatives for the defence and diffusion of the New Muslim trend. One aspect of this activity has been and remains the publication of articles in Russia’s academic journals of Oriental studies, and the parallel transformation of the ICKB into a Kabardo-Balkar Institute for Islamic Studies (KBIII in Russian acronyms). If this turn is representative of the strategy of the new generation of Muslim religious activists throughout Russia today, in the regions and in the capital, the very content of the Kabard and Balkar New Muslim movement, especially since the 1990s, remains quite vague, and requires further research and systematic comparison with other so-called ‘Wahhabi’ movements in the Northern Caucasus.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-4.3.C-385