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JSPES, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Fall 2001 )
pp. 569-588

Islam in the North Caucasus

Yavus Akhmadov, Steven R. Bowers, Marion T. Doss, Jr.

Religious diversity has had a dramatic impact on the development of the North Caucasus region. People do not identify primarily with either a national or international Islamic community, although the fundamentalist Vakhabite community has become a major regional force during the past decade. Numerous official attempts to suppress Vakhabite influence has resulted in the emergence of a clandestine Vakhabite network supported by Islamic radicals from abroad, mostly of Saudi and North African Arab origin. These have joined with the Khattab group to receive military training in terrorist camps in support of the Chechen resistance to Russian forces.
Following the first Chechen war (1994-1996), differences arose between Sufi and Vakhabite movements, with Sufi Muslims called for creation of a secular state that would preserve traditional social patterns, while Vakhabites demanded the eradication of local customs which they regard as having tainted Islamic purity.