In part 1 of this short series of posts, we saw that the Minbar al-Tawhid wa-l-Jihad website published a communique by the leader of the Islamic Emirate in the Caucasus, Dokku ‘Umarov, claiming responsibility for the attacks in Moscow on 29 March 2010. This was slightly odd since the Minbar mostly publishes books, articles and fatwas, not claims of responsibility for attacks committed anywhere. Although a quick glance at the website may give the impression that this is indeed an exception, a more detailed look reveals that it is part of a broader trend.
It appears that the Minbar has been involved in the conflict between Russia and the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus for some time. For instance, the Jordanian owner of the website, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, has written an epistle in support of the mujahidin in the Caucasus. In it, al-Maqdisi praises the supposed ideological purity, leadership and righteousness of the fighters in the Caucasus and writes that this group can serve as an example for other jihadi groups in the Muslim world. He speaks highly of their acts but especially of what he describes as their knowledge, their carefulness in applying takfir (excommunication of Muslims) and their unwillingness to deviate from tawhid (the unity of God) and compares them favourably with Hamas, another group fighting a non-Muslim enemy.
The group’s qadi (judge), Abu ‘Imran Anzur b. Aldar, has also asked al-Maqdisi for advice about Muslims working for the Russian government and to what extent the fighters in the Caucasus are allowed to co-operate with them. Abu ‘Imran observes that some Muslims are not very pious or fear for their lives but nevertheless sympathize with the fighters in the Caucasus and therefore use their positions in the Russian army or governmental circles, which Abu ‘Imran believes to be forces of unbelief, to secretly help the Islamic Emirate and wants to know how he should deal with this phenomenon. Al-Maqdisi’s rather general answer is that Muslims should show their true faith to others but their unwillingness to do so because they are weak or scared should not automatically lead to their excommunication. In fact, he maintains that these Muslims may be able to help further the cause of Islam as a whole and that this could be a good thing in certain situations.
The “mujahid leader” Abu ‘Imran also asked al-Maqdisi for advice about Muslim participation in the Olympic Games or the football World Cup. Interestingly, his question does not deal with the tight shirts and short trunks that athletes wear but concentrates on whether it is allowed to participate in sports while wearing clothes that prominently display the word “Russia” as well as Russian symbols. He also wonders whether the pagan Greek origins of the Olympic Games are acceptable in this respect and complains about youngsters who refuse to wear Nike clothes because that brand derives its name from a Greek goddess but who have no problem wearing shirts with the name of the “false god” Russia on it. One may wonder how relevant this question is for people who are busy waging a war against Russian troops, but al-Maqdisi treats it as a serious matter. He states that while participation in sports is not wrong in itself, it is in this context, although he is again careful not to brand those who do participate in the Olympic Games as infidels.
These two questions mentioned above are reportedly not the only times Abu ‘Imran asked al-Maqdisi for advice since he is said to been in touch with him about other things and has also asked for the latter’s books to be translated into Russian (see here). The Minbar’s involvement with the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus is not limited to al-Maqdisi, however, since those running the website have been busy translating not just some of al-Maqdisi’s books but also some by ‘Abdullah ‘Azzam and others into Russian.
So now we know that the communique about the Moscow bombings was not an exception but was actually part of a greater involvement by the Minbar al-Tawhid wa-l-Jihad in the Caucasus. This still leaves one question: why?
To be continued…