June 2015

Islam Is Seeking a Greater Role in Russia

By Mairbek Vatchagaev

Since the second half of the 18th century, when Catherine the Great realized that Russia would not be able to Christianize the Muslims in its conquered territories, the Russian government decided to give some autonomy to Muslims. In turn, the latter organized their lives according to sharia law. A hundred years after conquering the Caucasus in the 19th century, the Russian authorities had failed to Christianize the North Caucasian peoples and were forced to allow locals to use sharia law in some cases. Later, the Soviet authorities, who came to power in the North Caucasus in 1920 with promises not to touch the foundations of sharia in the lives of the Muslims of Russia, attempted to uproot sharia across the country using the most extreme measures. Sharia did not disappear, however, but persisted underground, governing the lives of Muslims in defiance of Soviet laws. Following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, sharia strengthened its appeal among the Muslims of Russia and became a subject of debate in society (Umma.ru, accessed May 29).

Syrian Opposition Meeting in Astana Makes Tentative Headway in Finding Way Forward for Peace Process

The majority of 30 Syrian opposition figures who met in Astana on May 25-27 issued a joint statement on May 28, in which they appealed for a continued search for political solutions to the lasting conflict in their country. They also thanked the Kazakh government for providing a favourable setting for the latest round of negotiations and expressed hope that the platform in Astana could develop into a permanent and effective mechanism in the process of elaborating a political solution for Syria.