Mr. Gatsalov, there have been media reports that some of the Russians from the Caucasus, including North Ossetia, joined ISIS. What is the best way to counter attempts by terrorists to recruit our fellow Russians?


— The number of people from Ossetia who joined criminal religious groups is much smaller than those who left other Russian regions to join ISIS. Fortunately, those regions are open about the problem and often turn to the religious board to prevent a surge in radicalism and extremism among young people. Unfortunately for Ossetia, there are some ‘smart’ people here, including among the law enforcement agencies, who put the finger at the Religious Board and the Muslims. 


That is their point? I do not know. It is not so easy to prevent brainwashing our youth with radical ideas. It requires a system and comprehensive effort, an aligned campaign by religious leaders, public organizations and the authorities. Religious leaders need to educate young people because radical ideas can take root in the minds that lack education, both secular and religious.


Young people need to get jobs in the education and production sector where they can realize their ambitions and capabilities, and this must be the foundation for our fight against extremism.


Late Imam Rasul Gamzatov, who was my deputy, authored one of the best research papers on radicalism prevention that has been studied extensively by imams who worked hard to raise awareness among Muslim communities and reached out to every Muslim with some piece of advice based on Gamzatov’s work.


After the war in Syria started, the Religious Board issued a fetwa to ban Muslims from the Republic to go there.


Kazakh capital Astana recently hosted multilateral talks on Syria. Do you feel that peace is round the corner or is it still too far away?


— The problem is that every stakeholder in the Middle East has their own interests and strategy. There are situations when a conflict of interest in the anti-ISIS coalition results in internal confrontation.


National interests of member states of the coalition prevail, and it seems there is no way out in sight.


The Sunni-Shia divide, national and territorial issues, ideological standoff between the Arabs and Israel, the interests of the energy sector have all come together in this conflict. Terrorists exploited Americans who seem to be advocating an immediate end to the conflict to disguise it as a religious war.


It is a global issue and its ramifications could change the strategic balance of interests across the world.


Europe feels the echo of the Middle East war, likely the beginning of mishaps for Europe. The talks in Astana revealed differences within the coalition.