Hundred thousands of Wahabis in North Caucasus – expert

Moscow, Russia - Roman Silantyev, an expert on Islam, has expressed concerns about the spread of radical Islamic ideas (Wahhabism) in the North Caucasus.

"Most of the Wahabis live in Dagestan (there are some 30,000 people there). In Ingushetia, there are some 10,000. Among the most problematic republics of the region is Kabardino-Balkaria. The percentage of radical Wahabis is high among the Muslims of the Stavropol Territory," Silantyev told Interfax-Religion at a presentation of the fiction collection Antiterror 2020 held in Moscow.

There is an active fight in Chechnya against Wahabis, but the problem remains. As for the people assisting and sympathizing with Wahabis in the North Caucasus, "they are in the hundred thousands," he said.

"In general, the percentage of Wahabis in Russian Islam reaches some 5%, and in the North Caucasus it is 10-15%. When their number exceeds 40%, it will mean that they have won," he said.

Speaking about the degree of radicalization of the Islamic clergy, the expert said there are no statistics on that, but he believes their umber is "much less than a half."

At the same time, some people believe that the percentage of radical people among religious figures is higher than among ordinary Muslims "because Wahabis mainly work with the clergy, and the percentage of imams who sympathize with them is high," Silantyev said.

Many imams preach extremist views "out of fear for their life and under pressure from bandits," he said.

When asked how this situation can be changed, Silantyev said: "We need to provide more effective physical protection to traditional Muslims and more effectively force people who don't want to live in peace and those assisting them to leave in peace."