"They learn at the mosque...that 9/11 was carried out by American agents, or maybe agents from somewhere else, to provoke a war against Muslims."
Young Russians in search of faith are turning to Islam
By Will Englund
Washington Post Foreign Service
Path to jihad: Russia's new generation of Muslims
In the Russian heartland, young people are discovering spiritual fulfillment by turning to Islam, the religion of their Tatar ancestors.
ALMETYEVSK, RUSSIA Rustam Sarachev should have had a hangover the first time he set foot in the central mosque here. He had wanted to throw a raucous party the night before, a send-off for himself on his way to Islam. But the guys he was with had mocked him for even thinking about the mosque, and had gone off drinking on their own.
Russia's new generation of Muslims
So here he was, regretfully clearheaded in the daylight, 500 rubles unspent on vodka and still in his pocket, heading up the steps of the big salmon-colored mosque that dominates one end of this minor oil city east of the Volga.
It was late September 2006, the beginning of Ramadan. As he looks back on it now, he remembers that he wasn't sure why he had decided to come, or what to expect. He was 17, at loose ends, a self-described hooligan, a troublemaker, starting to get hardened by a life that was heading for the verges of the law, yet still vulnerable to the insults and disdain that seek out young men with no future here.
When he walked through the great double door of the mosque, he was taking his first steps toward joining an intense Islamic revival here in the Muslim heartland of Russia that is drawing particular strength from its young people.
Sarachev was 2 years old when the Soviet Union collapsed, 5 when the first war in Chechnya broke out, 12 on 9/11. His whole life has been an era of cataclysms, of an old world being torn apart, of war against Muslims, at home and abroad. Old identities, old certainties, have proved empty. And now he was joining others here of his own generation who are finding, in religion, an alternate authority. They are joining a global community, and at a time when great passions are stirring that community.
They learn at the mosque that Allah is punishing Iraqis for their heresies. They learn that 9/11 was carried out by American agents, or maybe agents from somewhere else, to provoke a war against Muslims. But they learn, too, that those who want to go and join the fight in Afghanistan, or Pakistan- and young men who aimed to do precisely that have passed through Almetyevsk - are in error. This is not the time. Islam needs them here, in Russia.
Their faith, in any case, is not ignited by politics. If it were, the Russian authorities would have cracked down on the mosque long ago. Sarachev came up those steps, on that day four years ago, not out of anger but in search of a way out of the pointlessness of his own life.... (full story, with photo gallery, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/21/AR2010122105023.html?wprss=rss_world)