Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Russians’ Opposition to Mosques Reflects ‘Subconscious Fears of a Muslim Russia,’ SMR Head Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, November 17 – Ravil Gainutdin, the head of the Union of Muftis of Russia (SMR), says that opposition to the construction of mosques in Moscow shows that “in the subconsciousness of the contemporary urban residents of the titular nation, the Russians, there is a fear that on one fine day, they will wake up in a Muslim country.”
Such people, the Muslim leader said on the occasion of Kurban Bayram, are “seeking to frighten believing Muslims, to sow fear in the Muslim mmilieu, to spread doubts about the sincerity of the respect and attention to Muslims from the side of the power structures of the government by defining the question as is it necessary to build a mosque in Moscow?”
That is a dangerous step, he continued, because it could generate support for radical nationalists among Russians and for Islamist fundamentalists among Muslims, all the more so since “Moscow is not only the capital of the Russian state, not only an enormous megapolis … but also a mirror whose actions serve as a model for other regions of Russia.”
Indeed, Gainutdin said, “the real basis for extremism and terrorism is created by cultural and religion illiteracy, including on questions about the cultural heritage of other peoples and ethnic groups,” especially when those groups are not arrivals from somewhere far away but indigenous citizens (
The SMR leader’s remarks reflect the growing anger of many Muslims in the Russian Federation to the way in which they are being treated not only directly by the powers that be but also by extremist anti-Islamic groups that the regime is doing relatively little to restrain and that have been encouraged by recent anti-Muslim statements by European leaders.
Moreover, the anger Gainutdin expressed would undoubtedly have been even greater had it come after two developments reported today. On the one hand, Vladimir Zorov, prefect of the South East District of Moscow, announced that “no construction of a mosque [in Tekstilshchiki] is going on or being planned (
And on the other hand, the New Region news agency is reporting that some Russian nationalists are now saying that “there is only one means of forcing Muslims to take us into consideration and that is called deportation,” the kind of language that will only further enflame the situation (
Aleksandr Belov, the former leader of the openly xenophobic Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI), told the news agency that Russian officials must “carefully study the results of the celebration of Kurban-Bayram [in Russian cities] and drawn corresponding conclusions for the future.”
“Thank Allah,” Belov continued, “that there is such a holiday. In one place and at one time all the illegals have assembled. “It only remains for the militia to detain them and rapidly deport them according to the existing legal order. The holiday is a beautiful moment for the identification of all migrants.”
For Belov, the distinction between illegal migrants and Muslims in this case is less hard and fast than it may be for other. Muslims, he said, “love to say that in Moscow there live 1.5 million of the faithful. But this is not so. … In the best case, there are 100,000 Muslims in all of Moscow. There is no Muslim community of a million here and never was one.”
“The basic mass of these uneducated people [who took part in the slaughter of animals for Kurban-Bayram] are not local Muslims, not Tatars, but rather arrivals from Central Asia and the Trans-Caucasus who interfere with the local Muslims who conduct their religious holiday in a normal way.”
But Belov then made a broader point: “I do not know a single country where Islam peacefully coexists with other religions. And that includes not only countries which have a predominantly non-Muslim population, but even in lands with a Muslim population such as Pakistan for example there are constant terrorist acts.”
“Among Muslims,” the nationalist continued, the phenomena of fanaticism and radicalism are very widely spread and if something isn’t just so, then let’s blow up a mosque. Therefore all this is a functional danger, a threat for the entire society. Consequently, the fewer of them, the more peaceful” for everyone else.
Another radical Russian nationalist, Dmitry Demushkin, the head of the banned Slavic Union, advocates equally harsh measures against not only immigrants but Muslims as such. “Why must we think about the national feelings of Muslims. They are in our country as guests, is it not true? They must observe our laws, our traditions, and our way of doing business.”
If they want to do otherwise, he continued, then let them do it in turkmenistan, Uzbekistan or Tajikistan. “We won’t go into their monastery with our rules.” But while they are in our country, Demushkin said, they need to follow “our rules.” If they don’t, “deportation” is the answer, lest windows be broken and sheep sacrificed in public.
The Moscow militia, if it had been doing its job, the Slavic Union leader says, would have been able to send “two thirds” of those taking part in Kurban-Bayram celebrations in Moscow “immediately” out of Russia and back to their homeland where they could do as they please.

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