Islamophobia on the rise after Moscow Metro attacks
Muslim girls attacked because they wear the veil. Others beaten and forced to get off the subway. Anti-Russian and pro-Islamic graffiti. Islamophobia suits Caucasian irredentism, but the central government too.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - After the suicide bombings in Moscow, attributed to two female suicide bombers from the North Caucasus, religious leaders and Muslim intellectuals have sought to distance terrorism from Islam. "As a matter of justice, because terrorism has no religion ever" as some say, but also for the well-founded fear that in the wake of the massacre in the metro the community is being overwhelmed by a veritable wave of xenophobic attacks, as some episodes in the news already indicate.

The greatest risk is that Islamophobia, which has been creeping into Russian society, is being exploited for political purposes by those who aspire to an independent Caucasus, but also by those who aim to implement a political agenda aimed at repression and the strengthening of central power. Several Internet sites dealing with religious information, such as denounce the dangers of the authorities "ambiguity”: "On one side pointing the finger at Islamic terrorism, on the other claiming that Islam has nothing to do with violence".

While attacks continue in Ingushetia and Dagestan and the investigators dig into the lives of the two "black widows" responsible for the deaths of 40 people in Moscow, two women have already been attacked and beaten by unknown groups after the March 29 bombings. Their crime was they wore a veil or had a dark complexion, a characteristic that is associated immediately with the Caucasian population. Nargiza, 17, has been forced to leave the city: the daughter of an Armenian mother, she was attacked in the street. "They pulled her hair, tore her clothes and bruised her face," says Galina Kozhevnikova of the Sova Centre in Moscow, which deals with racially motivated crimes. A similar incident occurred, according to Radio Echo of Moscow in the afternoon the same day when, on the capital’s Metro, two Muslim girls wearing headscarves were beaten and forced off the train by a group of men and women. According to witnesses, no one reacted or called the police. The fear is that, as reported in local blogs and websites, it is now rare to see veiled women outside the borders of the Russian Federation republics with a Muslim majority.

Beyond the natural condemnation of the Moscow bombings, the Islamic community in Russia is pondering the cause of the massacre. For Ruslan Kurbanov, from the Institute of Oriental Studies, the Moscow suicide bombers are "a provocation to increase anti-Muslim hysteria and give new impetus to the process of destroying the social, cultural and political life of Russian society and of distancing the Caucasus from the rest of the Federation".  According to Gaidar Jemal, president of the Islamic Committee of Russia, the fact that blame was immediately placed at the door of "Chechen separatism, which no longer exists, shows a renewed intention to demonize Caucasian Islam as a whole ... Maybe to justify an enhanced Central power, similar to what happened in the aftermath of Beslan in 2003”.  

Yesterday, reports of graffiti such as "Allah Akbar" and "Death to Russia" appearing on the walls of the Planernaya stop in Moscow Metro, rekindled Muslims’ suspicion that the wave of Islamophobia is being exploited for political purposes. The news appears to fit ad hoc: it comes from an anonymous witness and police say it is difficult to identify those behind the graffiti because of "the absence of cameras on site”. Hard to believe, not even a week after the bombs.  

Interpretations aside, the line on which all agree is well expressed by Berdijev Ismail, President of the Coordinating Centre of Muslims of Northern Caucasus: "The important thing now is to stay united and not panic". (MA)