chapter  8
Chechnya: Islam and Political Insurrection
ByAlynna J. Lyon
Pages 14

This chapter explores the role of the tenets and symbols of Islam in the hostilities between the breakaway republic of Chechnya and Russia. Also, the work examines whether the Chechen conflict is indicative of what Mark Juergensmeyer has identified as a 'new Cold War': religious nationalism confronting the secular state. Furthermore, in discussing several ways in which religion can influence political life, the chapter raises questions about the continued role of Islam in Chechnya and the recent controversial adoption of the shari'a. The chapter illustrates how Chechen nationalist leaders invoked religious history and Muslim identity in this struggle with Russia and transformed the demands for autonomy into a violent secessionist movement. Islamic discourse—built on Sufi symbolism, religious warriors, and an established tradition of jihad— enhanced three essential components of the Chechen conflict with Russia: unity, organization, and mobilization. The term 'jihad' is itself very potent and loaded with political and religious connotations.