Islam has a longer unbroken history in Russia than anywhere in Europe. The various branches of the Tatars have been Muslims for centuries, many of them for more than a thousand years. Their customs were integrated into Russian culture, and persisted under the Tsars after the Mongol yoke was overthrown.
But the new radical form of Islam is a different matter entirely. The presence of various strains of fanaticism on the southern border has some Russians worried. Paul Goble, writing in Georgian Daily, reports on the growing opposition to Muslim immigration in Russia:
Russian Statements About Immigrants Likely to Spark More Violence
Vienna, December 20 — A call by a Duma member to restrict immigration in order to “fight radical Islam” and a suggestion by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov that Russian citizens should get the jobs many guest workers now fill appear certain to spark a new wave of inter-ethnic violence in the Russian Federation.
Until recently anti-immigrant statements generally emanated from xenophobic groups like the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) or famously outspoken politicians like Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, but in recent weeks, these statements have entered the mainstream as a result of worsening economic conditions.
Notice the loaded language used in this op-ed. To describe groups as “xenophobic” rather than “nationalistic” or “patriotic” reveals that the long arm of political correctness has reached all the way into the Caucasus. Mind you, the Georgians have their own reasons for fretting about militant Russian nationalism, but that’s a separate story.
The interesting thing about this is that Russia is alert to the danger of Islamic extremism, and — unlike the EU — is moving aggressively to restrict immigration:
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Earlier this month, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that he favored cutting immigration quotas in half in 2009, a statement that many in and around DPNI welcomed as a victory for their views and one that appears to have triggered new violence by Russian extremists against people from Central Asia and the Caucasus.
But on Wednesday, this already tense situation was exacerbated by an interview Semen Bagdasarov, a member of the Duma’s international relations committee, gave to “NG-Religii” about this issue, and even more so by a new statement from Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.
In his interview, Bagdasarov said that Moscow must adopt new laws to limit the influx of radical Islamist terrorists from Central Asia and the Caucasus who threaten to bring “the global jihad” into the Russian Federation and result in terrorist acts against the Russian people and the Russian state.
Whatever else you may say about the Russians, they are not in thrall to political correctness:
Among the measures he suggested was the introduction of visa regimes with many of these states, the development of measures to monitor “suspicious elements” among immigrants, and the adoption a law that would impose criminal penalties on employers who did not ensure that workers they dismissed were sent back to their homelands.
But even that will not be enough to deal with the problem, Bagdasarov continued. Moscow must direct the Muslim clergy in Russia to conduct an ideological campaign against the supporters of “global jihad” and “field commanders” from the hotspots in the North Caucasus and Central Asia, something the Russian authorities have not yet done.
Can you imagine any country in the West — with the possible exception of France — establishing official control over what is preached in its mosques?
And this, of course, is seen as a danger, because it will encourage “extremists” to do their worst:
None of these measures on its face is necessarily a bad thing given the dangers that emanate from some Islamist groups, but — and this is what is critical — many Russian extremists will see this as a hunting license to attack immigrants, since this invocation of an Islamist threat will silence many in Moscow and the West who might otherwise criticize such attacks.
And also in evidence is the mirror-image PC concern that cracking down on the jihad will generate more extremism and terrorism among the Muslim population:
Druzhinniki, popular militias whose members sometimes carry arms and which have links to the Russian Orthodox Church’s nationalist wing, are already patrolling Russian cities seeking to keep immigrants from any actions that violate law and order, a development that has prompted some Muslim groups hitherto quiescence to become more active.
I recognize the possibility that such nationalist militias can be dangerous. But are they really worse than what they are designed to counteract?
What if the Lutheran Church in Sweden organized vigilante patrols of Malmö? Would Sweden be worse off? What about Slotervaart, or Nørrebro, or Luton, or Clichy-Sous-Bois? Would these places be less civilized or less livable if armed indigenous militias enforced law and order? Or should we continue to make ineffectual noises while immigrant violence escalates?
Which option would be worse?
And organizations like DPNI also appear to be becoming increasingly active despite attacks on their leaders and the recent conviction of several individuals linked to that group for xenophobic actions, all of which has alarmed human rights groups in Moscow and elsewhere.
But even worse situation may lie ahead, particularly given the populist statement this week of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov who said that Russian should get the jobs migrants now hold, with quotas on the latter being established not only at the national level but in each individual plant and factory.
Speaking to a conference of law enforcement officials, Luzhkov said that it was imperative that quotas for immigrants be cut in Moscow and that the freed-up work places be given to natives of the Russian capital, a populist statement that will likely lead some Russian workers to demand that migrants be dismissed.
I hate to say it — no one wants a reputation as a Russophile these days — but some of these proposals are quite refreshing. I admit to a sneaking admiration for this display of Russian grit.
An uncomfortable aspect about all this is that Russia — without free elections, with press restrictions, with its culture of autocratic rule, intimidation, assassination, and organized crime — is more likely to survive as a nation than most nations in Western Europe.
Those countries which refuse to take strong action against immigrant criminality, ethnic violence, and jihad are not likely to persist beyond the 21st century.
Brutality is coming to Europe, whether anyone likes it or not. It’s not something I want to think about. None of us would willingly see it happen. But we will not be given a choice.
The only choice will be between submission and resistance.
Hat tip: Refugee Resettlement Watch.