Russians converting to Islam become foreign natives

From the history of the Caucuses War of the 19th century and the two Chechen wars, we know that many Russians converted into Muslims against their will. Many, but not all. A Soviet soldier "Afghan" from the film by Vladimir Khotinenko "Muslim" embraced the faith of Muhammad by sincere convictions. There are many people like him in Russia. Every Muslim neophyte has their own motivation for acceptance of Islam. But the situation is such that many eventually delve into Wahhabism. A Russian Muslim in Russia is foreign for both Russians and Muslims.

The author of this article knows a young Russian lady, a Muslim, an active journalist and blogger. Before accepting Islam, she studied at MSU, sympathized with National Bolsheviks, "Slavic Union" of Dyemushkin and lived a typical rave life. Alcohol, weed, rallies and concerts followed one another like pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope, year after year.

For some time she was not seen at any social outings. The news about her emerged a few years later. "Did you hear? Our Natasha converted to Islam, just crazy," I was told by a member of "Slavic Union". Then, after a moment's thought, he added: "We, Russian patriots, should have stopped drinking. Natasha drank a lot. Apparently, she became a Muslim because they do not drink."

Natasha, who became Khadijah in Islam, explained her choice differently: "I began to sympathize with Islam in 2004, when the U.S. invaded Iraq. Then I converted to Islam, no regrets. Auzubillyah, may Allah protect us,"   wrote Natalia- Khadijah in her Live Journal blog.

People like Natasha are treated by Russians in different ways. At best, people are surprised, at worst, they call them traitors. In the social network "VKontakte" there are groups dedicated to Russian Muslims. A member of one such group, Anastasia Evstifeeva, said that her acceptance of Islam immediately made her a pariah. "I have problems with people. Many do not understand me and interfere with my life. I am bullied by people who are close to me." Another Russian Muslim woman in the same social network said that her father, when he saw his daughter with a book of prayer, nearly disowned her. "He shouted that he was ashamed of what I was, that he did not want to know that I was suicide bomber, killing peaceful people."

The young Muslim woman was treated similarly by her brothers. Then, the situation in the family settled. The young Russian Muslim is dreaming that someday she will give her family davaat and explain the basic principles of faith of Mohammad. Under Islamic canons davaat cannot be forced on people.   

Unfortunately, there are examples when Russian people who just converted to Islam follow the path of the Wahhabi. This was the story of Alexander Tikhomirov born in Ulan-Ude, also known as Amir Said Buryat.

Traditional Muslims of Russia have always been careful about the Russian neophytes of Islam, and after the "Russian Wahhabi" case - even more so. "We believe that people who change their beliefs have labile psyche, susceptible to the influence from outside. These people are influenced by experts on agitation and propaganda, usually of more radical direction," said to GTimes Zagid Makhmudov, Dagestani expert on youth relations.

According to him, the problem of the so-called Russian Wahhabi is psychological rather than national. Russians become Wahhabi Muslim not because they renounced their roots or orthodoxy. Such people have never had a strong spiritual support. "Most radical converts are a consequence of marginalization due to the fact that there is a conflict of a new consciousness and conscious behavior with a hereditary subconscious condition. For the Russians, Orthodoxy is the most comfortable religion. Separation from it means confusion, unpredictable behavior, and marginalization. Such people can be led anywhere," said the expert.

If Islam did not exist, such lost people would join the Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons. "For example, in Dagestan there are active Christian sects, and often representatives of the peoples of Dagestan go there. It all depends on the level of activity and abilities of the "missionaries", society and the state to defend their interests in the spiritual sphere of life of its citizens,"   said Zagid Makhmudov in an interview with GTimes.

Radicalism of neophyte views of any faith is similar to teens' puberty. In psychology, there is a religious term "neophyte syndrome." "Russian Muslims converting to Islam experience the "neophyte syndrome. "Faced with guilt for the fact that before they and their people did not practice "true faith," they have a zeal that turns into fanaticism and fundamentalism," said to the publication the expert of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, Rais Suleymanov.

"Without a theological tradition of Islam in its history, as the traditional religion of the Russian people was and is Orthodoxy, Russians are easily influenced by Islamic radicals or begin to manifest exotic for Russia forms of Islam. The National Organization of the Russian Muslims (NORM), positioning itself as the organization expressing the interests of the Russians converting to Islam, preaches Islam of Muslim Maliki school, common in North Africa, while the indigenous Muslims of Russia are Muslims of the Hanafi and Shafi'i schools of thought. But, not being able to understand the intricacies of these theological religious and legal schools of Islam, Russian Muslims usually choose Wahhabism and other forms of fundamentalism, such as "Hizb-ut-Tahrir," said Suleymanov.

According to the expert, "ethnic" Muslims, on the one hand, are tolerant towards the Russian co-religionists because in their eyes acceptance of Islam by the "ethnic" Orthodox looks like a triumph of righteousness of their own religion. "However, the excessive zeal of Russian Muslims, which is often accompanied by criticism of the religious traditions of "ethnic" Muslims for a departure from the "pure Islam" causes resentment among indigenous Muslim peoples who perceive reproaches from Russian Muslims as a threat to their ethnic identity," said Rais Suleymanov. In an interview with GTimes he noted that Russia still does not have a single imam who is a Russian national.

"Ethnic Muslims are prepared to see brothers in faith in Russians, but do not want Russians to hold any positions in the spiritual hierarchy. Tatars and people of the Caucuses accept Russians as Muslims, but do not want to see them as the clergy. As a result, in the Muslim Ummah of Russia, Russians plays the role of a "little brother." To the rest of the Russians - Orthodox - Muslim converts look like traitors. Among ethnic Muslims Russians retain second-class status, since they are not even given the right to become imams. To prove that they are the real Muslims, Russians are ready for extremes to show devotion. And this is a direct path to terrorism," summed up the expert.

Orkhan Iskanderzoda


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov