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Islam and Arabic as the Rhetoric of Insurgency: The Case of the Caucasus Emirate

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Interpretations and uses of Islam are legion today. Some call for improving or preserving the morals and dignity of a certain local Muslim community or of the global Muslim community (umma) in its entirety. Others are eager to demonstrate that Islam is fully compatible and, in fact, conducive to modernity, democratic governance, and technological advancement of humankind. Still others posit Islam as a powerful means of liberation from occupation and domination/exploitation of Muslims around the world by non-Muslim powers. 1 This article addresses one concrete example of how some Muslim insurgents of the Northern Caucasus use Islam to unite the diverse and occasionally mutually hostile ethnic groups of the area in the face of Russian domination with the goal of establishing an independent Islamic state based on the Muslim Divine Law (Sharia). After providing a general overview of the history and ideology of this Islamic/Islamist movement, the article focuses on the ways in which its leadership uses the Internet to disseminate its understanding of Islam and to rally young Muslims round the idea of the trans-ethnic Sharia state that they promise to institute after defeating and expelling “the Russian occupiers” and their local backers. Special attention will be given to the role of Islamic concepts and taxonomies as well as the Arabic language in framing the political grammar of the insurgency movement known as “The Caucasus Emirate.” 2
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Islamic Studies, Department of Near Eastern Studies,University of Michigan, Ann Arbor,MI, USA

Publication date: 01 April 2012

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