Wahhabism: Ideology of Discontent

Radio Free Europe has a very interesting article by Robert Bruce Ware on the repudiation of wahhabism in Daghestan, the province neighboring Chechnya. The article shows that muslims in Daghestan are content to remain part of the Russian Federation, despite what bad blood may remain from the past, since they are free to practice their religion and Russia is providing them with economic assistance. The author conducted a survey of a thousand daghestanis. Here are the highlights:

Since the 1999 fighting [quick synopsis here], Wahhabism has received only marginal support. In a survey of 1,001 respondents conducted by this author throughout Daghestan in March and April of 2000, 9.1 percent agreed that “Wahhabis are Muslims, not extremists,” while 77 percent said that “Wahhabis are extremists hiding behind a religious facade.”

Remarkably, data indicate that the central determining factor in a respondent’s evaluation of Wahhabism is his or her view concerning Daghestan’s relation with the federation. Those Daghestanis who want Daghestan to have closer relations with Russia are 2.7 times more likely to see Wahhabis as extremists than are those who long for a more independent Daghestan. By the same token, those Daghestanis who desire to maintain the status quo are 2.6 times more likely to see Wahhabis as extremists than their fellow citizens who favor greater independence. In addition, those less inclined to view Russia as a threat to Daghestan are 1.7 times as likely to see Wahhabis as extremists as those who consider Russia a very serious threat to Daghestan.

In short, anti-Wahhabism, is positively correlated with pro-Russian attitudes. Since support for Wahhabism correlates with negative attitudes toward Russia, and since Daghestani attitudes toward Russia, as measured by the survey, are consistently positive, it is not surprising that attitudes toward Wahhabism are overwhelmingly negative. The survey showed that most Daghestanis strongly identify with Daghestan and with Russia and would place their trust in federal officials in the case of an acute crisis. Moscow subsidizes 80 percent of Daghestan’s budget, and most Daghestanis recognize that they cannot make it on their own. In contrast with some of its regional neighbors, Daghestan’s multicultural heritage has encouraged attitudes of pragmatism and moderation among its citizens.

Survey results also show that Wahhabism appeals more to men than women, more to rural than urban residents, and more to the young than to the old — thereby supporting anecdotal observations that Wahhabism holds particular appeal to young men from the villages.

Wahhabism is the ideology of discontent. A study just waiting to be conducted is to compare affilliation with wahhabism to lack of religious upbringing [outside of the gulf, of course]. My own observation is that wahhabism appeals more to those who were irreligious in their youth and are then “converted”, and those who come from irreligious households, where it plays into that perennial youthful vice of condemning your elders. It’s hard to imagine the appeal of a creed that says the last thousand years of Islamic practice are corrupt to anyone with respect for the piety of their forefathers.

Thanks to C.R. for the link.

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