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23 Aug, 2007 05:28

Muslim leaders in Chechnya condemn extremism

Muslim leaders from around the world are among the clergy gathered in the Chechen capital of Grozny to discuss tackling religious extremism. The Kadyrov Peace Forum, named after the current President, Ramzan Kadyrov, and his father, Akhmad Kadyrov.

The Muslim leaders who came to Chechnya to discuss ways of confronting religious extremism represent dozens of Islamic communities from all over the world. In Grozny, a city once almost swept away by violence and bombings, peace is something everyone has been waiting for for a long time now.

The mosque in central Grozny – once completed, it will be able to house 10,000 worshipers at the same time – is the pride of Chechen Muslims.

Chechnya’s President took guests on a tour of the newly rebuilt city before the Kadyrov Peace Forum began. The main venue of this forum is at Ramzan Kadyrov’s Gudermes residence. Just like his father, who was a mufti, the Chechen President practices Islam. And just like his father, he says he rejects any kind of extremism.

Akhmad-Khadzhi Kadirov, a rebel mufti who declared a jihad against Russia in the 1990s, later became the legitimate President of Chechnya and a strong supporter of Russia's federal government. Together with his son, Ramzan, he changed sides and fought against militant leaders. Akhmad Kadirov was assassinated in a 2004 terrorist attack in Grozny. But his ideas and his hopes live on.

Life in Chechnya is getting back to normal. Thousands of militants who fought against federal troops were allowed to lay down their arms and return to a peaceful life.

The guests at the Kadyrov Peace Forum represent different religions.

For a long time there was a war in this republic. The fact that Chechnya is hosting this forum says that there’s finally peace. As Buddhists, we are glad that our neighbours are recuperating from the conflict.

Lovsan Zundu, Buddhist monk

Lovsan Zundu is a Buddhist monk from the neighbouring Kalmyk republic. He’s been living in Tibet for the past 11 years and says he’s surprised by the positive changes he sees in Chechnya.

Chechnya’s spiritual leaders say even in the distant regions, where religious extremists once had a very strong following, people are turning to traditional Islam, a religion that does not encourage violence, despite the claims of Al-Qaeda and their like.

“The religious novelties which are being implemented in the world are unacceptable for the North Caucasus,” Said-Abdulla Akhmadov, Muslim leader from the Itum-Kale region noted. 

The Muslim majority in the Chechen Republic say they are supportive of their Christian brothers. The authorities in Grozny took an active part in restoring the biggest Christian church in the town right after the war.

Archbishop Feofan of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz is a frequent visitor to Chechnya. He says Christians and Muslims living in the region have a lot in common.

“Not only do we have consent. We live alongside each other, we understand each other. And we do as much as we can to confront the evils that are attacking our society,” Archbishop Feofan points out.

The delegates plan to come up with a statement that will condemn extremism and terrorism. In their address to Russian authorities and to other governments, the religious leaders say that tolerance is the only way for different religions to live in peace and that Chechnya, could become a good example of where people of different faiths are coming up with ways to respect each other’s beliefs.