April 24 - Russian religion expert says Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have learned an extreme form of Islam in Dagestan -- one he says is based on selfishness and severity Deborah Gembara reports.
To understand Tamerlan Tsarnaev, it might help to understand Dagestan, the volatile Russian region that is said to have deeply influenced him When he returned here in 2012, family members who hadn't seen him in years, say they were surprised by his new interest in religion. It fit with the shift that is underway here --- where veils and enveloping Islamic dress are increasingly replacing mini-skirts and where young men who join the insurgency are said to quote... "go into the forest," a rite of passage of sorts. SOUNDBITE: Dagestan Resident Sveta saying (Russian) "Suddenly everyone's started becoming Muslim - it means people have become smarter." ZAID ABDULAGATOV is a religion expert at the city's institute of economic and social research. SOUNDBITE: Zaid Abdulagatov, Religion Expert Dagestan Institute Of Social And Economic Research saying (Russian): "I can't say that one of them (Islamic extremists) spoke with him (Tamerlan Tsarnaev), met with him, but there was a big possibility of this, and if those people were watching them - the brothers - if they knew that he (Tamerlan) came here and spent six months here, if they knew all that, of course somebody could have wanted to use that." He says anything Tsarnaev may have learned about Islam here would have markedly different from other places. SOUNDBITE: Zaid Abdulagatov, Religion Expert Dagestan Institute Of Social And Economic Research saying (Russian): "This is a regional form of Islam - a regional form. Here there is a lot of selfishness, a lot of severity, a lot of politics - this is the way it's been traditionally. What impact those six months had on the deadly bombing he is suspected of carrying out, may always be a mystery. What is clear is that Tsarnaev, who had once dreamed of returning to Russia as a member of the U.S. Olympic boxing team, was struggling to carve out his own piece of the American pie.