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Russia's Islamophobia - World Peace Herald

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  • Zafar Khan
    Russia s Islamophobia By Paul Goble United Press International Published October 25, 2005 http://www.wpherald.com/storyview.php?StoryID=20051025-110558-7419r
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 26 12:12 PM
      Russia's Islamophobia
      By Paul Goble
      United Press International
      Published October 25, 2005


      TARTU, Estonia -- The beatings of Muslims in Sergiyev
      Posad, the seat of the Russian Orthodox Church,
      suggestions by Patriarchate officials that the Muslims
      should not be there in the first place, and the
      efforts of the militia and prosecutors to downplay
      this event continue to spark discussion in the Moscow

      Perhaps the most complete and certainly the most
      devastating description of what has taken place and
      what it may mean for the future of Russia appeared in
      an article by Aleksandr Soldatov entitled "The Mosque
      near the Monastery" in "Moskovskiye novosti" last

      The current scandal began when a group of eight
      young men broke into the Muslim prayer house in
      Sergiyev Posad on Oct. 14, shouting slogans like
      "Russia for the Russians" and "There is no place here
      for Muslims" and beating the local imam Arslan
      Sadriyev so severely that he had to be hospitalized.

      When the local militia arrived, they detained
      several of the attackers who as Soldatov notes had not
      bothered to flee the scene of their crimes. But the
      militia quickly released them and announced that what
      had occurred was nothing more than the hooliganism of
      those who had had too much to drink.

      In the wake of press reports about the beatings,
      however, local prosecutors said they would bring
      charges against those involved -- but only for
      incitement of inter-ethnic hatred rather than for
      attacking Muslims. And only on Friday did Sergei
      Koshman, Moscow oblast, or region's deputy governor,
      assure Muslim leaders that the authorities would
      punish those responsible for the attack, Islam.ru

      But as Soldatov makes clear, this case involves
      far more people than those directly connected with the
      crime. Radical nationalist groups like the Union of
      Orthodox Christians have criticized the very existence
      of a Muslim prayer house in the seat of their church,
      and several Patriarchate spokesmen have seconded that

      Local government officials have gotten into the
      act as well. One, quoted by Soldatov, said that
      Sergiyev Posad "is an exclusively Orthodox territory,
      and the establishment of Muslim cult building here is
      impossible," a statement that other officials backed
      away from after it drew media criticism.

      But the current head of the region, described by
      Soldatov as "the former director of the local meat
      processing firm with the beautiful Russian name
      Upyrev," ran his successful campaign for office on an
      openly "patriotic" platform which left no doubt that
      he too will continue to oppose any Muslim activities

      "In the spiritual center of Russia," Soldatov
      writes, "there are no spiritual forces prepared for a
      dialogue with Islam. Instead, there is hatred and
      crude force. The dance clubs, striptease bars, and
      drug dens with which no one is fighting in the 'city
      of Saint Sergei' -are these not attributes of 'the new
      Russian order,' which peacefully coexists with the
      great but for the majority quite dead saint?"

      Indeed, the Moscow journalist says, the attacks on
      the Muslim community there and the Islamophobia behind
      them appear to reflect the fears of many Russians
      "against any recollection about God when he is
      presented not as an exhibit in a museum but in the
      form of a living reproach to contemporary Russian

      And those who feel that way thus want Muslims --
      who insist on taking their religion seriously -- to
      get out. But Soldatov continues, "It is clear that the
      Muslims are not going to leave Sergiyev Posad just as
      they are not going to leave other Russian cities."
      Indeed, he says, current demographic trends mean that
      there will be more of them.

      Consequently, he concludes, "tolerance for Islam
      is a necessary precondition for the preservation of
      Russia in borders close to the ones it has now. And
      those who intend to conduct a 'holy war' with Islam
      are only bringing the disintegration of their own
      state that much closer."


      (Paul Goble teaches at the EuroCollege of the
      University of Tartu in Estonia.)

      More about Islam and Muslims in Russia at:
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