Those who have seen the movie Poltergeist II: the Other Side will surely remember the scene where the Reverend Kane, the head of a millenarian cult, took his followers underground in anticipation of the end of the world. There they were sealed in and denied permission to leave, even after the predicted date came and went.
I could not help but think of this when I read reports today that seventy members of an Islamist sect were found living in an underground bunker by police near the city of Kazan in the republic of Tartarsan, the biggest Muslim majority area in Russia, some five hundred miles east of Moscow
The group known as the Fayzarahmanist sect after Fayzrahman Satarov, their 83-year-old self-styled ‘emissary of Allah’, included some twenty-seven children between the ages of one and seventeen. Many of them were born underground and have never till now seen the light or the sun. They were living in cells without heating or ventilation.
Police officers made the discovery during a routine check of the conservative Muslim group after the moderate Mufti of the republic was injured last week by a car bomb and his deputy shot and killed.
Irina Petrova, the local deputy prosecutor, told reporters that the bunker’s rooms were like “cells”, lacking sunlight. “According to the agency for the control of public facilities, there are eight levels of rooms, where not only children but adults live as well”, she said. Only a few members of the sect were allowed to leave to go and work at a local market.
All of the children were dirty. Although their general health is reported to be ‘satisfactory’ a number were found to be suffering from tuberculosis and anaemia. Their parents are now being investigated for child abuse. As yet no arrests have been made.
Satarov, formerly a leading imam from the nearby province of Bashkortostan during the Soviet period, declared his property, a 7530 square-foot plot of land, to be an ‘independent Islamic state’ after he broke away from Russia’s mainstream Muslim community. He is said to have once seen the ‘light of Allah’ in sparks coming from the overhead cable of a trolleybus.
In 2007 he sent an open letter to a doomsday cult in the town of Penza, saying “You have taken the wrong path! We are waiting for Judgement Day and we know that when it comes only our territory, free from devil-unbeliever, will stay whole and untouched.”
Judgement Day has clearly come earlier than anticipated.