The interview contains some passages of considerable interest, including the following:
6. In your first appeal as president, you observed that "the Chechen leadership will continue to keep close contacts and friendship with the whole civilized world, but in doing so, its ideological base should take the worldview of the Muslim people of Chechnya into consideration." Could you explain whether this means that after the war, Chechnya will create a religious state based on Sharia law and not a secular one based on the constitution adopted in 1992? Or, do you think that a compromise between these two [options], combining religious and secular laws, is possible?
After the war, we will continue to create the state that we planned from the very beginning based on the constitution that was adopted in 1992. The point is that this constitution, according to the decision made not only by the executive and legislative organs of power of the ChRI, but also by the Military Committee of the Majlis-ul-Shura, [by] all the committees that are part of the Majlis-ul-Shura and also by the will of a vast number of the population, should reflect the Islamic essence of the Chechen people. Not a single regime, not even the Soviet regime, with all of its totalitarianism, with all of its misanthropic policy, could force either the Chechens or the neighboring peoples to abandon the practice of resolving their problems through Sharia courts. Naturally, they [the Sharia courts] could not function in full measure, but people resolved all issues through the Sharia courts, through [appealing to] the elders, and no one has been able to extirpate this system in the North Caucasus.
I myself was witness to how in Russia, in the former Soviet Union, three constitutions replaced one another in a short period and then came perestroika [and] then developed democracy and after that [came] the revanchist regime that once again is pulling Russia into wars and conflicts—a regime that has begun to fight once again for "Great Russia." It is not clear what is behind these words, but it is clear that when "Great Russia" is spoken of, neither freedom nor human rights is implied. It ["Great Russia"] means endless wars, death and the deception of millions of people.
Therefore, we do not want to pass such laws that would have to be changed every 10-15-20 years; laws that would only be good for one leader, calculated for some sort of temporary period. All laws should be based on the main principles of humanity that are found in religion—in the Quran, the Gospels and the Torah. The basic principles are expressed by the holy books, sent down by the Almighty Allah and humanity should not ignore them. When somebody tries to escape from this and introduce other values that contradict human nature, this ends in conflict, local or regional.
Islam has three enemies. The first one is the militant atheist. The atheist is a danger for any country, for any nation, because it is a person without any values. I want to be understood properly here: when Muslims use the word "infidel," they mean people who have not accepted Islam, but they are still Christians, Hebrews or representatives of other religions. That is, they are people who have norms that they follow. People who have such values, such norms, can find a common language.
The second enemy of Islam is fanaticism—the fanaticism of the theologian who incorrectly interprets Islam. That is what we are also seeing today in many Islamic countries where people are suffering under dictatorial totalitarian regimes instead of enjoying human rights and freedoms, which are values that ought to be protected for each person. This in no way conforms to Islam.
The third enemy is the fanatical ignoramus. Such people are a danger to any society.
As to my first appeal, I simply said that nobody should interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.
7. What, in your opinion, ought to be the policy of the world community and, in particular, the governments of Muslim countries, that could have a real impact and stop the war in Chechnya? Do you think it is possible that international mediators could take part in negotiations between Russia and the ChRI? What is your attitude to [Ilyas] Akhmadov's plan, which proposes temporary international trusteeship [for Chechnya] under the United Nations?
The policy of the world community should not deviate from the basic values that can be taken from the Quran, the Gospels or the Torah. The participation of international mediators is possible, but is not obligatory. Akhmadov's plan was given a green light over several years, but unfortunately it did not work. Not because the plan was bad, but because our opponents were not ready for any peaceful resolution of the issue. Today, the plan does not suit the current realities; we have held out and grown stronger. We no longer need this plan and there are other proposals and solutions to this problem. But the main thing is that the Kremlin ought to part with its militarism and become more pragmatic, correct and respectful of law—international law.
8. Would you personally accept direct negotiations with the pro-Russian leadership of Chechnya—Alu Alkhanov and Ramzan Kadyrov—and, if so, what format, in your opinion, should they take?
I would like to use an example understandable to everyone. Let's imagine that you are attacked by a pack of dogs belonging to your neighbor. You would have to talk to the dogs' owner, wouldn't you? There would be no point in talking to the animals, to the dogs. They [the pro-Russian leaders of Chechnya] fulfill the dishonorable, undignified role of ordinary puppets. If we pinned our hopes on them, we would injure not only the honor and dignity of the fallen shaheeds but also the honor of the whole Chechen nation. What can these puppets do? What problem can they solve? Everything they do, they do with the permission of the Kremlin and the Russian special services. They have never made a singe decision on their own. They have never decided anything on their own and never will. So this question must be properly understood. It is not a matter of our unwillingness to halt military operations; it is simply that it makes no sense to conduct negotiations with that pack.
9. In case of negotiations between the ChRI and the Russian Federation, what role could be played by emirs of the jamaats of the other republics of the North Caucasus? What is the ultimate aim of the struggle led by these jamaats? How does their struggle correlate with the war fought by the Chechens for their independence? Do you see the prospect of you becoming the political leader of the whole North Caucasus?
Certainly, if negotiations between the ChRI and Russia start, all issues will be resolved between us consultatively, observing the principles of the Shura. Not only will the emirs of the jamaats take part in the discussions, but also ordinary mujahideen will take part as equals. We all have one common goal—liberation from colonial slavery and achieving freedom and independence. Like the Chechen people, all the peoples around us have risen up and want freedom and independence. There are jamaats on the territory of Russia, some consisting of [ethnic] Russians, many of which have taken the oath of allegiance to me as emir of the Majlis-ul-Shura and have directly subordinated themselves to us. There are some Muslim groups that would like to remain within Russia on the condition that their freedom of belief is observed—a freedom that is guaranteed by the Russian Federation constitution.
There are such groups, but above all, it is the Chechen people who in the past have never had any desire to remain in Russia and do not have such a wish today. There are also the neighboring nations who share our demand for independence. All these questions will be decided consultatively, collegially and by mutual consent.
I am the leader not because I want to be, but because it is a universally recognized fact in the North Caucasus; the Majlis-ul-Shura is the legal body for all the Muslims of the North Caucasus and, as has already been said, not only for the North Caucasus, but also inside Russia, where there are many jamaats that that have taken an oath of allegiance to us. This is a fact, but it is not as if we ourselves have specially tried to bring this about.
10. Which position is more important to you—being a sheik and Emir of the Majlis-ul-Shura or being the president of the ChRI?
According to Islam, the word "sheik" expresses a respectful attitude to a scholar or to an elder in a family line. It is close in meaning to the English word "sir." The Emir of the Majlis-ul-Shura and the president have the same function and the same role. The only difference is that the Emir of the Majlis-ul-Shura has more rights and more duties. Naturally, the Chechen people have always behaved according to the constitution, where the position of ChRI president is assigned. "Sheik," as has already been noted, is just a respectful form of address in Islam.
11. Let us touch upon your attitude toward Western countries. Do you regard the United States as a potential friend of the ChRI or do you regard America as an enemy, like Russia?
I think that we can make friends not only with the United States, but with Russia as well. Despite this murderous, dirty, barbarous war that Russia has waged against us, we have never rejected good neighborly and friendly relations with Russia. Unfortunately, this has always hit a wall of misunderstanding, arrogance and imperial ambitions. Nevertheless, we are not people who can be made into slaves. It is better to have us as friends. If a nation [or] country, especially a world superpower like the United States, is ready to have a dialogue with us, we are always open and will be open to this. If we are ready to be good neighbors with Russia, then we cannot have any problems with America.