Russia shocked by murder of moderate Muslim
A Muslim university professor who criticised radical Islamists was shot dead in Dagestan in a killing that sent a shockwave around the conflict-torn Russian region, officials said Wednesday.
Maksud Sadikov, 48, was shot in the yard of his home in the regional capital of Makhachkala late Tuesday, the Investigative Committee said in a statement.
Attackers also shot Sadikov's nephew dead at the scene and wounded a third man before fleeing, regional prosecutors said.
"This is not only a murder, it is a challenge to all of our society," Dagestan's leader Magomedsalam Magomedov said after an emergency meeting with top security officials.
"We have lost a very well known man, who had authority in Dagestan."
Regional investigators said in a statement they believed the murder was linked to "Sadikov's professional activity, his active speaking out against the extremist current of Islam".
Dagestan, a Muslim Caspian Sea region known for its ancient culture and tapestry of ethnic groups, experiences almost daily violence officials blame on militants seeking to establish an Islamic state across the Russian Caucasus.
Sadikov had called for moderate religious education to combat Islamist extremism and was an expert on Wahhabism, a form of Islam espoused by insurgents in Russia's North Caucasus which he fiercely opposed.
The Institute of Theology and International Relations, headed by Sadikov in Makhachkala since 2003, offers a combination of Islamic religious training and secular subjects, with men and women taught separately. It is the first such institution in the Caucasus.
Magomedov lamented that the killing was not the first time a leading religious figure had been murdered and said it was time to make sure all perpetrators were brought to justice, the RIA Novosti agency reported.
"How long can this continue?" he asked. "Dozens of people are killed by terrorists every year. And for the most part these crimes are unsolved and the criminals unpunished."
The Council of Muftis, one of Russia's main Muslim organisations, said in a statement that the "shot fired at Maksud Sadikov is a shot at the attempts by authorities and society to achieve peace and reconciliation in the Caucasus."
The Russian Orthodox Church remembered Sadikov as a "friend", top Church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin told the Interfax news agency.
"Muslims who respect the historic traditions of their peoples and point their brethren towards to peace and dialogue are today becoming the victims of terrorists," he said.
The murder of Sadikov comes just two weeks after the shocking killing of the anti-extremist poet Shamil Dzhikayev in the nearby Caucasus region of North Ossetia.
Assailants slashed Dzhikayev's head with a Samurai sword in what investigators believe was a revenge attack for a 2008 poem denouncing the behaviour of Islamists in the Caucasus.
Russia is fighting an Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus, site of two wars with Chechen separatists in the 1990s, and Dagestan has experienced some of the deadliest violence.
In an interview with the Moscow-based Kommersant Vlast magazine in April last year, Sadikov had launched an unusually bold attack on Wahhabists in the Northern Caucasus and alluded to the threat on his own life.
"For them (Wahhabists), our Islam is not Islam. They insult the feelings of our believers. If they just lived a quiet life then please, go ahead.
"But if someone comes up to me and says 'you are not a believer, you are a polytheist' then that insults me. And they don't just say this, they do it with a machine gun in their hands.
"And they say, that if I don't believe like them they will kill me. And they are killing."
© 2011 AFP