Another notorious murder of a revered religious activist was committed in Dagestan last Saturday. Gunmen opened fire on Sheikh Ilyas Ilyasov and his driver in Makhachkala. Ilyasov died of wounds on the spot, and his wounded driver is in hospital. The most possible version that the investigators focus on is the religious activity of the sheikh. He has been repeatedly threatened of late.
Ilyas Ilyasov was sheikh of Naqshbandi Tariqa (a trend of Sufi Islam), the Kommersant daily writes. According to unofficial data, starting from the 1990s he was in the opposition to the Spiritual Department of Muslims in Dagestan (SDMD). However, according to a SDMD representative, the existing differences were removed over the recent years, and for the past four years the sheikh cooperated with the department dealing, in particular, with hajj issues (pilgrimage of Muslims to sacred places). Prior to that, Ilyas Ilyasov was advisor to the Dagestan premier for religious issues, as well as worked as deputy chairman of the government committee for religious affairs and then was imam of Makhachkala’s Safar Mosque.
According to a Kommersant’s source, having the title of sheikh, Ilyas Ilyasov was not a “practicing” teacher, which means he did not receive pupils and followers. At the same time, judging by the interview he gave in November 2012, Ilyasov had his own stance on many issues which differed from the position of republic’s secular authorities and the leadership of the local Spiritual Department of Muslims. He was also known for his negative attitude to armed methods of fight assumed in Salafi trend of Islam.
Over the past two months this was already a third attempt on the life of religious clergymen in Dagestan, the newspaper says. On July 25, Rabbi Ovadya Isakov was wounded in Derbent. After a surgery at a local hospital he was airlifted to Israel for further treatment. June 23 saw an armed attack on the house of Imam Magomed Abdullayev in the settlement of Kakhabroso. The wife and the son of the imam were gravely wounded in an exchange of fire, and one of the attackers was killed.
“According to early reports, bandits tried to kidnap the imam to then kill him in revenge for his religious beliefs,” the National Antiterrorist Committee said, explaining that “Abdullayev preaches the ideas of traditional Islam that have taken root in Dagestan, and he was earlier repeatedly threatened by members of the Gimry terrorist group”.
Religious activity is seen as the main motive of Ilyasov’s murder, the Novye Izvestia daily writes. For 20 years he was in opposition to the official Spiritual Department of Dagestan and often criticized government officials. In different years Ilyasov held high positions, including an advisor to Dagestan’s head of government. The newspaper reminds the readers that 38 religious activists have been killed in Dagestan in the past 14 years.