Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have been using extremely strong language when expressing their resolve to stamp out terrorism in Russia. Medvedev has promised 'crueler' measures in fighting terrorism, and Putin has called for the Moscow bombers to be 'scraped from the sewers.' This sort of macho positioning is unhelpful. It will only exacerbate the problem.
The Muslims of Chechnya and Dagestan are already alienated from Russia because of the oppression they have suffered for years (and continue to suffer) at the hands of the Russian leadership. Instead, President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin should seek to understand the root causes of terrorist violence in Russia. Medvedev and Putin have had a habit of blaming terrorism on either Islam or so-called 'Wahhabism.' But it is not Islam or Wahhabism that is causing the insurgency in Russia.
Russia has - for years - arrested, imprisoned, tortured, bombed, killed, and maimed innocent people in the provinces of Chechnya and Dagestan. Russia's crimes against Muslims are so great that they produce anger among Muslim men and women in Russia. And this anger gets directed at the Russian security services, and at times, against Russia's civilian population. Nothing justifies terrorism; however, we must try to comprehend why some Russian Muslims are choosing to take the path of violence.
One of the grievances that Russian Muslims have is that they are not allowed the freedom to preach and practice their religion. If Muslims are not given the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion, then this will cause more anger, more alienation, and possibly more terrorism. Medvdev and Putin should stop killing Islamic activists, human rights workers, journalists, and political opponents. Free speech should be allowed in all quarters in Russia. And the freedom to worship should be given to all people of faith in Russia.