Thursday turned out to be a deadly day for religious leaders in the usually peaceful republic of Tatarstan. One Muslim official was murdered in cold blood and another barely escaped a deadly car bombing. Valiulla Yakupov, the head of Islamic education in the republic, was shot dead outside of his apartment on Thursday after six shots were fired in his direction. In a separate attack near the same time of day, Ildus Faizov, the chief mufti for Tatarstan, was nearly killed by a car bomb in the car he was driving. He went to the hospital with severe injuries.
The New York Times points out that this region is usually known for its peaceful climate, which allows for multiple faiths to live side by side in relative harmony. Russian officials believe comments Mr. Faizov made regarding the growth of religious radicalism in the region could have sparked a retaliation.
The Islamic Spiritual Council of Tatarstan, which Mr. Faizov leads, does not support radical religious groups and in April Mr. Faizov dismissed the Kul Sharif Mosque after differing views on religion occurred. Mr. Yakupov was put in charge of education under Mr. Faizov. The two successfully banned textbooks from Saudi Arabia in an attempt to stem the tide of radical religious groups.
Although officials have speculated about the cause of the attacks, perpetrated on two well-known religious figures in the region of Russia, little is known about who perpetrated the murder or the car bomb at this time.
Putin condemned the attacks the same day they occurred, and also lamented that preventative measures had not been taken beforehand to stop these incidents from happening. Al Jazeera quotes President Putin, who said:
There is a need to understand the situation, analyse it and take timely decisions…Taking into account this tragic event, we can say that no pre-emptive steps had been taken.
The region of Tatarstan is comprised of mostly Sunni Muslims and the area has remained heavily influenced by Russian authority. A strand of Islam known as Salafism, a more radical and puritanical version of the religion, has been brewing in the area for some time, causing friction with moderate leaders, like Valiulla Yakupov and Ildus Faizov, the Wall Street Journal points out. Putin’s concerns about the lack of precaution taken by the Russian government came after Tatarstan officials had warned the central government about possible unrest in the region.
Photo Credit: RIA Novosti