“North Caucasus extremism has no religious basis” – Dmitry Medvedev

President Medvedev has met with local government and religious leaders from the North Caucasus to examine ways of tackling increasing crime and terrorism in the region.

Bearing in mind the recent wave of violence which has hit the Russian republics in the North Caucasus, and in particular Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya, fighting extremism and terrorism was the focus of the meeting’s agenda.

Dmitry Medvedev stressed that Russia has traditionally been a multi-confessional country where two thirds of its 157 nationalities are Muslim communities, and supported Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov’s call to stop using the term “Islamic extremists” in the mass media.

"The right word to call bandits is bandits,” he said. “It has no religious content, even if they think in their head that they are faithful Muslims. They are not Muslims, they are bandits.”

Medvedev said a very important issue is educating young people in the republics of the North Caucasus, and money and resources will be allocated to do that. The Russian president has called for the creation of a special program for working with young people in the North Caucasus, as it is them who are lured into militant groups.

“Unfortunately, terrorist groups are still managing to involve young people. That's a fact. It's therefore important to develop an integrated programme to work with the young people in the North Caucasus. This is one of my suggestions I would like you to discuss. This programme must include educational elements as well as measures to help these people to find work,” Medvedev said.

Medvedev stressed the need for religious education through mass media that will create a strong alternative to the extremist picture of what Islam is.

Medvedev said that a specialized TV channel, where professional imams and theologists explain Islamic teaching, is much needed in the Russian Federation.

The President has promised support to North Caucasus religious leaders, stressing that it would be impossible to tackle existing problems without strengthening their moral authority.

”In this you can fully rely on the Russian state and Russian President’s support,” Medvedev said.

All the members of the discussion were unanimous that all Muslims must not be painted with the same brush.