Centralized religious organization "Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia" with the support of the all-Russian public organization "Russian Association for the Protection of Religious Freedom"
Expert Report On the situation with observance of Muslim rights in the Russian Federation
- Manifestations of Islamophobia. 5
- Construction and restitution of mosques: bureaucratic and societal obstacles. 11
- Crimes against Islamic spiritual leaders. 14
- Non-conventional Muslim groups and the authorities: problems of relations. 15
- Problems of wearing traditional Muslim clothing. 19
- Muslim rights in the penitentiary system.. 22
- Reflection of the Muslim theme in the sphere of culture and art 23
- The situation of Muslim migrants during the pandemic. 26
- Fomenting inter-religious discord. 30
Conclusions and practical recommendations. 31
Appendix. Muslim Rights Violations in Foreign Countries. 34
The year 2020 saw a marked decline in the quality of life and degradation in the level of enforcement of Muslim rights and freedoms globally. There has been an increase in the radicalization of public sentiment, Islamophobia, discrimination and persecution on ethnic and religious grounds.
The main reason for these negative trends was the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which led to the isolation of Islamic communities. But it was not just the epidemic situation that influenced the deterioration of the situation of Muslims. Many of the factors were the direct result of deliberate social engineering by the authorities of certain states.
Ongoing and simmering armed conflicts continued to have a long-term negative impact. The pandemic-induced disruption of trade and supply chains threatens to bring unprecedented hunger to the people of the Middle East, North and Central Africa and Asia. The situation of refugees and displaced persons living in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, as well as in the Eurasian space, has noticeably worsened.
The crisis point of this year was the murder of history teacher Samuel Paty by an 18-year-old of Chechen ethnicity, Abdullakh Anzorov, on October 16 in a suburb of Paris. This event led to a sharp outburst of sectarian strife in Europe, with aftershocks around the world.
Global trends could not but have an impact on the situation in Russia. The events in France encouraged a number of public figures and politicians to a public display of Islamophobia. The pandemic led to acute social problems related to migrants from Muslim countries of Central Asia and from Azerbaijan, who found themselves in a difficult situation due to border closures. The aggravation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has also provoked an increased inter-confessional discord inside Russia.
In 2020 in Russia the topics of ensuring adequate representation of Islamic culture, taking into account the interests of the Muslim community in the formation of the national cultural discourse, preventing the negative impact on the educational and educational processes in the Islamic environment by Russia's opponents in the world arena have gained significance.
At the same time using its extensive experience of overcoming the crisis of inter-ethnic and inter-confessional confrontations of the 1990s and early 2000s, Russia has been able to consistently achieve harmony in relations between representatives of major ethnic and confessional groups, reduce tensions and resolve long-standing problems.
Consistent work of public figures and purposeful institutions of civil society contributes to expanding the attention of the Russian authorities to the problems of Muslim rights and freedoms. New programs to prevent confrontational situations on ethnic grounds are being developed, and more funding is being allocated to work with ethnic minorities and migrants. "We should also think about more serious funding for programs aimed at harmonizing inter-ethnic and interfaith relations. Besides, it is necessary to conduct systematic monitoring for early warning of conflict situations in this sphere," stressed Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia Dmitry Medvedev.
This expert report is the continuation of the comprehensive work that the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia began in 2019 with the support of the Russian Association for the Protection of Religious Freedom to analyze the situation with observance of the rights of Russian Muslims. The document categorizes the main challenges in the field of protection of rights of Muslim Russian nationals and Mislim migrants, provides assessments and recommendations for further improvement of Russia's domestic and foreign policy regarding Islam.
1. Manifestations of Islamophobia
The Russian society in general is not subject to Islamophobia. Russia has been a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state since the beginning of its historical development.
Positive trends in the development of inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations, including a steady decline in Islamophobia in Russian society, are evidenced by the results of a sociological survey conducted in March 2020 by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM). The survey focused on the dynamics of inter-ethnic and inter-confessional relations over the past 15 years. According to the survey, it is Muslims who say that the situation has improved — one in three (32 percent, compared to the national average of 24 percent). This allows a conclusion that Russian Muslims have indeed experienced positive changes in the field of inter-ethnic relations over the past 15 years.
Unfortunately, not all Russians share these views. There are some manifestations of Islamophobia in the Russian society at the grassroots level. As a rule, those are individuals who adhere to neo-Nazi and radical nationalist views. For example, on May 26, 2020, unknown persons vandalized more than ten graves at the Muslim cemetery in Surgut. The vandals knocked down the tombstones, some of the slabs split apart. On June 22 in Elektrogorsk town of Moscow region unidentified persons destroyed a plaque with a quote from the Quran that used to decorate the front of the Muslim cultural center.
Noteworthy is the case of conscript Artur Khakimov from Chelyabinsk, who, according to the human rights organization "Committee - Council of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia", escaped from his military unit because of violence from fellow soldiers. The escape of a 19-year-old from his unit in the village of Bolshaya Tura was reported on January 3, 2020. According to media reports, he was subsequently picked up on the road by a trucker, who recognized the fugitive by the description. The man persuaded the fugitive to voluntarily surrender to the police in order to avoid prosecution. And so he did, before the three-day deadline required by law in such cases.
This case requires further analysis, but there are some indications that it may be classified as a manifestation of non-statutory relations, based on animosity on religious grounds.
These acts of Islamophobia are small in scale and disapproved of by an overwhelming number of Russians. Nevertheless, they indicate the presence of a number of systemic problems in the sphere of culture, education and upbringing, for the solution of which it is necessary to mobilize the forces of both the state and the society.
In his analysis of the problem Alexander Brod, member of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, comes to the following conclusion: "Education and spiritual upbringing are among the major barriers to the spread of ignorance and intolerance towards religious confessions."
The anti-Muslim sentiments of French President Emmanuel Macron were certainly a factor that fueled the Islamophobia sporadic manifestations. In his speech on "the fight against separatism" following the October events in the Paris suburbs, he said that "Islam is a religion which is experiencing a crisis today, all over the world," and French authorities will pay special attention to educating children. Macron suggested the need to build an "enlightened Islam" in the country and to "free Islam in France from foreign influences."
The French President gave the Muslims an ultimatum to submit to the values of the Republic in their faith within two weeks.
On December 9, 2020, a bill aimed at combating so-called "Islamist radicalism" was promulgated in France.
Among the noteworthy measures is the compulsory schooling from the age of three, with the option of opting out in favour of home schooling in special cases only. This measure is aimed at putting an end to so-called "clandestine" schools.
Another article calls for mosques to register as places of worship so that they can be better identified. Many of the country's more than 2,600 mosques now operate under rules for associations. Foreign funding for mosques, while not prohibited, must be declared if it exceeds 10,000 euros.
The bill provides penalties of a fine and up to one year in prison for a doctor to provide a young woman with a certificate of virginity, which is sometimes required for marriage.
Yet the words "Islam" or "Muslim" are never mentioned in these 50 or so articles aimed at providing better oversight of mosques, associations, public services and schools and further protecting the French secularism that is already enshrined in law. But the true purpose of the law is no secret to anyone.
Human rights groups have expressed concern about this legislative initiative of the French authorities, which aims to discriminate against French Muslims.
It should be noted that Macron's actions are a gross violation of the rights of the Muslim population, the principle of freedom of conscience and religion. The president of a member of the UN Security Council and a leader of the European Union actually accused the entire Muslim community of the country of being involved in a crime committed by one person.
The position of the Russian Federation on the observance of the rights of the Muslim community in France was stated by Russian President Vladimir Putin at his annual press conference on December 17, 2020: "A person’s freedom ends where another person’s freedom begins. This is a universal formula. Those who act without thinking and offend people of faith and hurt their feelings have to remember that there will be a response, one way or another. On the other hand, this response should not be aggressive. No world religion, including Christianity and Islam, as I have recently quoted from the holy books – the Quran, the Bible and the Torah, and the Buddhist holy texts – mentions aggression."
The Chairman of the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia (SAMR) Mufti Albir Krganov expressed the opinion of Russian Muslims regarding these events. "On the one hand, we, Muslims, condemn the murder of a teacher, in general, no one should kill anyone ... But, from another point of view, the position that was taken, as we see, in some European cities, including France, Muslims perceive as Islamophobic," he said. The Mufti noted that Russian Muslims are very wary of what is happening in Europe: "On the one hand, the degree of open Islamophobia in Germany, France and other regions is increasing, and on the other hand, there is anti-Semitism... Europe is rapidly moving, as we would say, in the wrong direction, and we must not exploit the feelings of worshippers."
According to A. Krganov, the Muslim world cannot perceive the very characteristic of terrorism or extremism as a product of Islam. "There can be no such thing as Islamic terrorism or murder. There is the holy Quran, the Sunnah of the Prophet, which never called for this, but on the contrary, forbade murder and called for peace and good neighborliness. This is what is at the heart of Islam," concluded the Mufti.
In October 2020, after the terrorist attack in the suburbs of Paris, LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky made a series of resonant statements. In particular, in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) radio station he said: "Turkish preacher Gulen is in America. He opened 150 schools throughout Central Asia, including in Kazan. What was taught there? We must control what is taught in the schools opened by foreign preachers from foreign centers. Everything is attractive: the education, the school. But they add a little poison there: anti-Russian sentiments, anti-Orthodox sentiments. Then we get extremists, fanatics, radicals, who follow the example. There were a few cases in Paris, somewhere else, maybe. And something happened in Kazan... We need to inspect all educational institutions, where there could be extremist literature. When 'sleeper cells' are exposed, they find a lot of it."
Zhirinovsky, known for his emotional outbursts and high-profile accusations, has certainly overreacted again. His words, consonant with the French accusations of the entire Islamic world, cast a shadow on all Muslim educational institutions in Russia. However, no one would deny the interest of foreign intelligence services and the facts of the deliberate introduction of an agenda beneficial to Russia's opponents through non-state educational institutions.
At the same time, statements by a number of well-known politicians, journalists, and public figures containing Islamophobic characteristics pose a significantly greater danger.
Ksenia Sobchak, a well-known journalist, blogger and former presidential candidate, published a post on her social networks in which she expressed her admiration for Macron's tough stance and urged religious people to eschew viewing content they do not like, but allow others to enjoy their freedom of speech.
In addition, she criticized the position of the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, who said that what they call freedom of speech in France is "a mockery of religion" and "an attack on the values of other people." The blogger recalled that before the cartoons were displayed, the murdered teacher suggested that students who might have been offended by the cartoons for religious reasons leave the classroom.
"The medieval understanding of 'an attempt on values' is surprising. So not accepting the values of others is an attack on them? If you don't want to look at the prophet's drawings, don't look. Freedom is to go out of the classroom where they are shown, leaving everyone else free to do what they want and like. After all, they get their way — everyone is afraid to even joke about Muhammad and Muslims!!! Which means they have already taken away their freedom by terror. That's why Macron, who said such things in modern, semi-Muslim France, is my hero," Ksenia Sobchak wrote.
The well-known liberal journalist Yulia Latynina went even further in her Islamophobic rhetoric. On October 28, 2020 in an interview to Ekho Moskvy, analyzing the situation in France, she stated: "In general, from my point of view, Europe was very wrong to crush ISIS, because it would have been ideal just to leave this state in Syria and, on the contrary, to expel to it all the people who say that 'here Europeans walk without burqas, walk without chadors, do not behave well, 'hell dogs'… we cannot live like this, they must change their minds and change themselves'. Very good. If it is so hard for these people to live in Europe, in fact, if it is so hard for these people to live in Russia, please, here you have a state built in your image and likeness — go there and live there as you want. I think that destroying ISIS was a big mistake. They should have let these beautiful people build the state they wanted and sent them there from a horrible, terrible Europe, where these beautiful people cannot live, to the state they like."
Such a statement, aired on a radio station that is popular in Russia and has an audience of millions, by a well-known journalist and writer who lives in the United States but positions herself as a Russian public figure, appears to be especially dangerous, containing not only Islamophobic ideas that degrade the human dignity of the religious group, but also clearly extremist ones.
An example of Islamophobia are the actions of the Turkish blogger Ibrahim Atabey, who desecrated the Muslim holy book, the Quran, and insulted the prophet Muhammad. On November 16, 2020, in a live broadcast on YouTube, Atabey insulted the Quran and tore pages from it. The video sparked a strong reaction among Internet users, who strongly condemned the behavior of the blogger offensive to worshippers. He also made offensive remarks about Prophet Muhammad in his previous videos.
Atabey is currently hiding from Turkish justice on the territory of the Russian Federation, and consequently his Islamophobic stunt is directly related to our country.
The existence of such statements by well-known politicians and public activists in Russia requires a separate analysis and actualizes the problem of ethical behavior of representatives of the political sphere. In our view, such judgments should be the subject of special attention from the profile committees and commissions of the State Duma, the Federation Council, and the Civic Chamber of Russia. It is necessary to develop a response on the part of all institutions of civil society to manifestations of Islamophobia in the public socio-political space.
Another manifestation of Islamophobia is the identification of terrorist activity with Islam and Muslims, which is widespread in the public space. Attempts to link extremism and terrorism with Islam and other traditional religions are unacceptable.
The head of the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia, Mufti Albir Krganov, at a press conference in Moscow expressed regret that the Russian media started to actively use the phrase "Islamic extremism" against the background of the events in France, where provocations against Islam and Muslims led to increased violence.
July 2020 saw a situation that could provoke a rise in Islamophobia. The Spiritual Administration of Muslims (SAM) of Russia banned Muslims from marrying non-Muslim women.
The theological opinion published on the website of the Spiritual Administration says: "The Council of Ulema of the SAM of the Russian Federation decided that inter-confessional marriages, in particular with representatives of the people of Scripture, are inadmissible in Russia and are possible only in certain isolated cases by decision of the local Mufti, who reviews and takes into account all circumstances of the particular case."
According to the decision, a non-Muslim woman can marry a Muslim if, for example, she does not consider Jesus to be God, but God's messenger, along with the prophet Muhammad, and recognizes the existence of the only God. In doing so, the woman must express her willingness to follow the precepts of the Quran. The statement said that for two people as close as husband and wife, it is important for the strength of their union to have common values in life, including in matters of religion.
Roman Silantyev, an Islamic scholar and professor at the Moscow State Linguistic University, noted that Sunni Islam has four schools of law, three of which prohibit marrying non-Muslim women, while the Hanafi school, the most common one in Russia, allows such marriages. In other words, said the expert, now it turns out that the conclusion of the SAM contradicts the school to which almost all of their worshippers belong. "Besides, it purports to have some sort of all-Islamic character, and this is just as abnormal as if the Orthodox Church were to make statements on behalf of all Christians," Silantyev stressed. "Such a decision by the SAM may cause problems," concluded the Islamic scholar.
The Chairman of the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia Mufti Albir Krganov commented on the SAM decision. "We respect the conclusion of our brothers in the Council of Ulema of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims, but we cannot add more than what the Quran says. The Almighty permits marriages with people of Scripture," Krganov said.
It is important to remember that the prescriptions of the theologians, the Council of Ulema, are recommendatory rather than obligatory. "We should take into account that we do not live in a mono-confessional and mono-national country. Experts estimate that about 25 percent of marriages in Russia are inter-ethnic and inter-confessional. These are thousands of families in which children are brought up with dignity. If people love each other there should be concessions in relations. Otherwise conflicts arise, starting with which tradition to name the child," said the Mufti.
Talgat Tadzhuddin, Supreme Mufti and Chairman of the Central Muslim Spiritual Board of Russia, also had an opinion on the matter. He stressed that the prohibition on Muslims marrying members of other religions contradicts the Quran: "The Quran says that it is allowed to marry chaste women who believe (Muslim women) and chaste girls from other scriptures (Orthodox, Catholic and Jewish), if you give them a reward."
2. Construction and restitution of mosques: bureaucratic and societal obstacles
The lack of mosques and Islamic centers remains an acute problem. Despite the fact that a significant number of places of worship have recently been built in various regions of Russia, the situation remains difficult. First of all, it is about regions where Muslims are non-traditional residents, including major metropolitan areas. In cities like Moscow, St. Petersburg and Krasnodar, the number of mosques and their capacity does not meet the needs of urban Muslim communities (according to expert estimates: 4 mosques in Moscow for over 2 million Muslims, 2 mosques in St. Petersburg for over 1.5 million Muslims, no mosques in Krasnodar for over 300,000 Muslims). This not only hinders the realization of the religious rights of Muslims living permanently or temporarily in this territory, but also creates problems and additional tension in inter-communal relations in places where religious facilities are located when there are large concentrations of worshippers, especially on holidays.
In some cases, there are attempts on the part of state or local authorities to create unreasonable obstacles to the construction or restitution of mosques to the Muslim community.
In 2020, the issue of mosque construction remained one of the most pressing in the area of Muslim rights. In particular, the first deputy head of Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia, Mufti of the Spiritual Administration of St. Petersburg and North-Western region of Russia Ravil Hazrat Pancheev noticed in his speech at the session of Presidium of the SAMR on December 14, 2020, that the main issue with lack of mosques was and is on the agenda: "When you leave mosque on Friday and see people doing sajdah (worship, prayer) in the snow, it is a sight painful for the heart. Today, the construction of mosques is a priority because working with young people without the necessary infrastructure and conditions for them to offer prayers and have discussions is impossible. Therefore, the main task is to increase the number of mosques in large cities and regions."
In his turn, Djamaleddin Makhmutov, deputy chairman of the St. Petersburg Muslim religious organization "Al-Fath", drew attention to the need to build a new mosque in the northern capital.
"For 12 years already we have been writing letters to the city government with requests to allocate land for the construction of a new mosque. The administration just shrugs: 'We don't have spare land.' But the city needs a mosque. We want to encourage people to be pious, tolerant, patriotic… After all, religion is the core of the soul. The existing mosque in St. Petersburg just can't accommodate everyone. On major holidays, we have to hold services right in the courtyard, as it is more spacious. No more than 3,000 people can enter the mosque. We need 5,000," said Makhmutov.
The problem of building a new mosque in Moscow is equally pressing. The National Autonomy of Tatars of the South-Eastern District of Moscow sent an open letter to Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin with a request to build a mosque in the district.
The letter, in particular, contains the following arguments: "On October 30, 2020, Dmitry Peskov, press secretary of the President of Russia, stated that the issue of the need to build new mosques in Moscow is the prerogative of the capital's authorities. In this regard, we ask you as the mayor of Moscow to explain the development of the situation with the construction of new mosques in the Russian capital… Muslim religious figures have repeatedly raised the problem of the lack of places for collective Friday and holiday prayers in the capital of our country. The unresolved problem causes serious inconvenience to Muslim worshippers."
There is a need to build a mosque in Ryazan. On September 4, 2020, the issue of the lack of a proper mosque was raised at a meeting with the head of the administration of Ryazan municipal district, Natalia Zhuneva, by the chairman of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Ryazan Oblast, Imam-muhtasib Rashid Hazrat Bultacheev. During the meeting, Bultacheev thanked the head of the municipality for her support in holding the main Muslim holidays and drew attention to the lack of a proper mosque in Ryazan. "We strive to work in contact with the city and regional administrations. We have common tasks… And, of course, the first question we raise at such meetings is the question of the mosque," Rashid Khazrat Bultacheyev commented on the event.
The situation is still problematic in Kaliningrad Oblast, where there is not a single mosque. Here, back in May 2019, a prayer house in Chernyakhovsk, recognized as an illegal construction, was demolished by court order.
Obviously, the situation in Kaliningrad Oblast and other subjects of the Federation with similar problems needs a comprehensive analysis and immediate decisions to meet the needs of the Muslim population in facilitating access to cult places. Cooperation between the state and the civil society is needed on this issue. Solutions must be comprehensive, taking into account real needs, migration and demographic trends. Regional councils on inter-ethnic and inter-regional relations and regional civic chambers can become a forum for discussion of this problem. It is necessary to systematize, study and disseminate positive practices of solving the problem of constructing mosques in regions with non-traditional Muslim population.
It is equally important to solve a similar problem: the restitution to Muslims of mosques and prayer buildings that were in their possession before the events of 1917. The procedure of restitution and the Federal Law No. 327-FZ of November 30, 2010 "On Transfer of State or Municipal Property to Religious Organizations," which defines the "procedure of gratuitous ownership or gratuitous use by religious organizations of federal, regional or municipal property of religious nature, are not applied universally. This unclear situation is occurring in the Ulyanovsk, Rostov, and Volgograd regions, the Republic of North Ossetia, Stavropol Krai, and a number of other subjects of the Russian Federation.
At the same time, there are positive results. In December 2020, the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Republic of Adygea and Krasnodar Krai succeeded in having the refusal of the Russian Ministry of Defense to transfer a non-residential building in Maykop declared illegal by the court. It is about the edifice of the first mosque of Maykop, which is located on Krasnooktyabrskaya Street.
The situation with the Kush Manara mosque in the village of Tatarskaya Kargala in Orenburg Oblast deserves close attention and prompt intervention. In 2008, the mosque was included in the list of newly identified cultural heritage sites. However, despite repeated appeals of the villagers to the Ministry of Culture of Orenburg Oblast, financial assistance for the restoration of the mosque was never allocated. Moreover, the Muslim community's attempts to repair the building on their own were found to be inconsistent with established standards. In 2015, the Ministry of Culture conducted an inspection, which revealed violations of legislation on the protection of historical and cultural monuments. The restoration work was ordered to halt.
Lack of earmarked funding does not allow to perform the required amount of restoration of the mosque as a monument of architecture. The only way out is to remove the mosque from the register of historical and cultural monuments. However, the request of the villagers was rejected.
In a collective appeal to A. S. Brod, member of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, the villagers expressed the impression that "representatives of the Inspectorate and the Ministry of Culture do not hear us and do not accept our arguments. The villagers are puzzled by how it is possible to destroy a temple that survived and served during the war and the Soviet period."
This is not the only example in the Russian Federation. It seems necessary to consider the possibility of changing in such cases the status of mosques from regional monuments to municipal objects. It is advisable to develop a more flexible system for responding to the problems of restoration of religious sites, which should be based on the interests of citizens — members of the community.
3. Crimes against Islamic spiritual leaders
Crimes against Muslim religious figures have historically been a serious problem for Russia. Both successful and failed attempts on the lives of spiritual leaders proliferated during the armed conflict in the North Caucasus and became a significant factor in the 2000s. Between 2009 and 2016, a total of 45 religious figures were murdered.
The main reason for the assassinations of religious leaders is the desire of extremist forces to destabilize the situation, to achieve radicalization in the Muslim community, and to split the Russian society. It is important to note that it is the spiritual leaders, who are usually the most influential representatives of Muslim communities, who perform the main function of ensuring peace and harmony in inter-communal relations, resolving conflict situations, and preventing the spread of radical ideological ideas that have nothing in common with traditional Islam.
According to Mufti Albir Krganov, "some forces, at the cost of people's lives, want to undermine society in the Muslim regions of Russia. After all, those, who are behind the assassinations of influential Muslim figures, act precisely for the purpose of stirring up the Islamic community."
In 2020, there were no attempts or assassinations of religious figures. This is an important positive trend, indicating both the effective work of law enforcement agencies to prevent crimes and the improvement of preventive and educational work in Muslim communities, the leading role in which is played by religious organizations of Russia.
4. Non-conventional Muslim groups and the authorities: problems of relations
A special attention in the analysis of the situation of Muslims is given to the problem of unconventional radical religious groups, the activity of which is illegal in Russia. They are beyond the jurisdiction of the Centralized Muftiates, operating in the Russian Federation and recognized as representatives of the Muslim community, and are not connected with the teachings of Islam traditionally practiced by the peoples of Russia.
As a rule, these organizations hide behind pseudo-Salafi and Takfiri rhetoric, but have little in common with Islam as a whole. Their political-religious views present a radical extremist and often terrorist ideology, eclectic in its essence, aimed at the realization of political goals and disguised as religious views.
Non-conventional organizations became widespread in the 1990s, primarily in the North Caucasus, but also have a certain number of supporters in other regions of Russia. The spread of pseudo-Salafi organizations and the activities of their adherents in Russia is a multifaceted problem that must be addressed comprehensively. On the one hand, their work in Russia, involvement of Russian Muslims into their ranks with further participation in extremist and terrorist activity, poses a significant threat to the interests of Russian Muslims, their lives, health and property. On the other, disproportionate or unfair criminal prosecution of Russian members of radical groups can become a breeding ground for increased tension and conflict in inter-ethnic and inter-confessional relations. This problem is particularly acute in some regions of the North Caucasus, as well as in the Republic of Crimea. In this regard, religious organizations, public and state institutions need to conduct a broad educational work, to dissociate the ideology of extremism from the fundamentals of faith, thereby eliminating the possibility of recruiting and using the pious feelings of worshippers in unlawful activities.
Here are a number of high-profile cases related to the participation of Russians in non-conventional organizations in 2020.
On September 22, 2020 the Moscow Region Military Court of Appeal has imposed a tougher sentence on Anvarzhan Aliev, a resident of Ufa. Aliyev, previously convicted of calling for extremism, will serve his sentence not in a settlement colony, but in a colony of general regime. Previously, a court in Yekaterinburg sentenced Aliev to three years in a settlement colony for posting extremist videos on the Internet. According to investigators, Aliev also spoke out in support of terrorist organizations banned in Russia — ISIS and Hizb ut-Tahrir. The prosecution appealed the verdict. As a result, the court panel decided to send the convicted person to a colony of general regime and increase the sentence to 3.5 years.
In October 2020, the Southern District Military Court sentenced Sagid Kazimagomedov, a resident of Rostov Oblast, to five years in a penal colony. The court proved that the man transferred to members of ISIS more than 700,000 rubles.
At the same time began the trial of Russian citizens Rustem Emiruseinov, Arsen Abkhairov, and Eskender Abdulganiev, who were detained in February 2019 in the village of Oktyabrskoye in Krasnogvardeysky district of the Republic of Crimea. During the debate in the Southern District Military Court of the Russian Federation, the prosecutor demanded that three Crimean Tatars accused of involvement in the Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is recognized as a terrorist organization in Russia, be sentenced to the following terms: Rustem Emiruseinov — to 18 years in prison, Arsen Abkhairov - to 15 years in prison, Eskender Abdulganiev - to 16 years in prison. Emiruseinov is accused of running a terrorist organization (Article 205.5, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), while Abdulganiev and Abkhairov of participation in it (Article 205.5, Part 2 of the Criminal Code).
Back in the spring and summer of 2017, 11 Russian Muslims were detained in St. Petersburg, Dagestan, and Kabardino-Balkaria. All of them were charged with involvement in the Islamic organization "Takfir wal-Hijra", recognized as extremist by the Russian Supreme Court in 2010. One of them, Shamil Fataliev, a millwright from St. Petersburg, was accused of organizing a cell (Article 282.2, Part 1 of the Criminal Code), while the rest were charged with participating in its activities (Article 282.2, Part 2 of the Criminal Code).
On April 23, 2019, the Leninsky District Court of St. Petersburg sentenced Fataliev to seven years in a colony of general regime, the other defendants received sentences of two and a half to three years. Five of them were released in the courtroom, since they had already served their time in pretrial detention center. Of all those convicted, only Fataliev is currently serving his sentence.
On October 19, 2020, the Russian human rights center, Memorial, recognized Fataliev as a "political prisoner". Memorial's statement said the following: "Fataliev is being prosecuted for the non-violent exercise of the right to freedom of conscience. He was deprived of his liberty in order to consolidate and maintain the power of the authorities, in violation of the right to a fair trial, as well as other rights and freedoms guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. According to our findings, there is no corpus delicti in his case."
This situation requires a separate analysis. Memorial is recognized in Russia as a "foreign agent" and receives foreign funding. This statement is aimed at destabilizing the situation in Russia and is an attempt to play on a rather sensitive topic and ignite inter-confessional conflict. It seems necessary to intensify the interaction between the state and the institutions of civil society that represent the interests of Russian Muslims in order to curb the threats to inter-ethnic and inter-confessional peace.
Unfortunately, the actions of law enforcement officials in combating terrorist organizations can lead to violations of the rights of law-abiding Muslims. This is exactly what happened in Astrakhan in November 2020.
On 27 November, in the vicinity of Bolshiye Isady district in the center of Astrakhan, security forces blocked vehicular traffic. Right outside the Red Mosque, buses were parked. Members of the security forces loaded the worshippers into the buses and took them to police stations. The detention of the worshippers started at about 2pm, and about half an hour later the buses with the detainees drove away from the mosque. Shortly afterwards all the Muslims detained near the Red Mosque were released. The police said it was a search for people fleeing from investigation and trial. Muslims were outraged that such inspections were conducted in mosques during Friday prayers.
The year 2020 also witnessed searches of the homes of Muslim clergy. For example, in September 2020, searches were conducted in the homes of activists of the SAM of the Republic of Ingushetia: Deputy Mufti Magomed Khashtyrov, Imam of the mosque in Srednee Achaluki village Adam Malaroev and Muftiate representative Abdurakhman Torshkhoev. After the searches, they were taken to Vladikavkaz for questioning by officers of the main investigative department of the North Caucasus Federal District.Musa Abadiev, head of the Association of Muslims of Ingushetia, considered the actions of law enforcers as pressure on the muftiate.
It is clear that such excessive measures need to be carefully analysed by both public authorities and civil society institutions. Recognizing the need to counter terrorism, we nevertheless note that such searches should not violate the personal rights of the Muslim population of Russia.
Infringements of Muslim rights also occur when law enforcement officers inspect the premises of Muslim organizations on the basis of the law and established law enforcement practice. The activities of law enforcement officers are usually limited exclusively to legal norms, while historical and cultural-psychological aspects, including traditions, customs, and the way of life of Muslims are not taken into account. These actions are often perceived by the Muslim community as acts of state violence against the Islamic Ummah.
Such situations require a preliminary negotiation process, which has enormous potential and gives the parties an opportunity to come to constructive solutions on their own and voluntarily, to work through and take into account cultural and psychological aspects.
A significant role in this process could be played by representatives of Muslim organizations, who generally are members of the public councils within all regional structures of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Their consultation and direct participation can create a favorable ground for the prevention of conflicts, change the attitude of representatives of the Muslim community towards the actions of law enforcement officers, and help to resolve various disputed situations.
5. Problems of wearing traditional Muslim clothing
One of the most significant problems in the relations between Muslims and the non-Muslim part of Russian society remains the ability to wear religious clothing. First of all, it is about wearing hijabs in educational institutions.
As of today there is no federal law in the Russian Federation that clearly regulates this issue, which leaves the possibility of resumed conflicts over the wearing of hijabs in secular schools. The current administrative and law enforcement practice is ambiguous and contradictory and depends on the specifics of the subject of the Russian Federation.
In 2020, several scandals related to religious clothing came to the public's attention.
The administration of health resort "Rus" in the spa town of Yessentuki did not allow one of its guests into the pool because of her Muslim burkini swimsuit. Zulfiya Zakarianova came from Moscow to the Caucasus to rest and heal. As the burkini-clad woman entered the pool, boarding house staff came running and insistently asked her to get out of the water, citing facility rules against swimming in a covered swimsuit. Zakarianova saw the incident with the swimsuit as an infringement of human rights on religious grounds. "I have not encountered such discrimination in any region of Russia or abroad," she said.
Commenting on the Islamophobic episode, Mukhamed Salyakhetdinov, head of the Association of Muslim Cultural and Educational Societies "Sobranie", noted that "some short-sighted orders of leaders of different ranks, not taking into account national, cultural and religious features of representatives of multinational and multiconfessional Russia, lead to the growth of aggression, which feeds the extremist ideas, which in turn hurts the whole society."
This incident is not typical of Russia and brings to mind many similar cases in France and other Western European countries. It seems wrong to transfer such prohibitive norms from the practice of European states, which are currently in a state of deep crisis in the sphere of inter-ethnic and inter-confessional relations.
More common in the Russian reality is the ban on hijabs in schools, universities and vocational education institutions.
In 2018–2020 Muslim female students at the Omsk Medical College were systematically prohibited from wearing hijabs. This led to a lawsuit. In September 2020, after a series of trials in the Alina Navruzova case, College administrators allowed Muslim female students to wear hijabs.
In November 2020 it emerged that Irina Romanova, the principal of the secondary general education school in Stolbishche, Laishevsky District, the Republic of Tatarstan, had banned Muslim female students from wearing hijabs.
On November 11, the parents of a seventh-grader wrote a complaint to the prosecutor's office about the violation of the child's rights to education and personal inviolability. Her parents reported "psychological pressure on the girl during the conversation with the class teacher and the Tatar language teacher."
The statement was sent to the prosecutor's office of Tatarstan and the Department of Education of Laishevsky district. The next day, November 12, school principal Irina Romanova apologized to the family of the seventh-grader. The girl will continue her education at the same school. The parents of the girl, whose principal had forbidden her to come to school in a hijab, withdrew their statement from the prosecutor's office, and at this point the conflict is exhausted.
Thus, the problem of wearing the hijab remains relevant. In 2020, however, a positive trend emerged. The situation is gradually normalizing. The number of scandals related to the hijab has decreased significantly. As a rule, judicial decisions or pre-trial settlements are usually favorable to Muslims. This indicates a gradual decrease in the acuteness of the problem and the development in the Russian society of compromise solutions that take into account the interests of the Muslim population.
Another current problem is the ability to wear the niqab. This headdress is causing mixed reactions both among non-Muslims and in the Muslim part of the Russian society.
In particular, Mufti Salah Mezhiev of the SAM of the Chechen Republic believes that the niqab is undesirable in Russia because it attracts unnecessary attention and unusual clothing can harm Muslims and contribute to Islamophobia.
As Imam Alisher Dzhuraev, head of the local religious organization of Muslims "The Seventh Generation" operating in Moscow, believes, that it is not preferable to wear niqab is in the contemporary Russian society because it does not ward off temptations, but, on the contrary, draws attention.
Damir Mukhetdinov, deputy chairman of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Russian Federation, has a different point of view. In his opinion, in addition to the cultural aspect, the aspirations of the very people who advocate the niqab are important in the spread of the niqab. "Those who are motivated by the idea of wearing the niqab and hiding their face, they are in a way guided by the main principle - to preserve their form, their sanctity and their chastity, so as not to provoke outsiders, men in this case, to the appearance, the beauty of a woman," Mukhetdinov noted. At the same time, he pointed out that the question of wearing the niqab must be considered on the basis of the characteristics of the society in which one lives, where even a good deed can pass into category of haram. "For today's Russia in central regions, in Moscow, where an absolute majority of the non-Muslim population lives, wearing the niqab causes suspicion, irritability, scrutiny. Thus, people who wear the niqab achieve goals diametrically opposed to those that should be achieved by a woman who wants to wear the niqab," Mukhetdinov said.
Meanwhile, according to Mukhetdinov, the norms of a secular state, which Russia is, do not directly or indirectly prohibit or should not prohibit or regulate clothing styles. " In terms of the law of the state, we have no right to forbid a person to do what he or she wants to do. I would not take the liberty or responsibility to judge any individual's personal choices. They have the right to act as the law of the Russian Federation allows them to act. If the law of the Russian Federation does not forbid them to wear the niqab, then all other arguments are based on a speculative perception of reality and have no legal or other basis. It's all just a matter of taste and one' s private opinion and interpretation. At the same time people who wear the niqab can be overly pious and consider it their duty, or they can really be supporters of some fashion, or wearing the niqab can be a manifestation of fanaticism or a misinterpretation of religion," Mukhetdinov explained.
Clearly, the question of wearing the niqab is not an unambiguous one, largely determined by the traditions of each particular region.
6. Muslim rights in the penitentiary system
One of the key problems in the sphere of protection of Muslim rights is the analysis of the situation in penitentiary institutions. In the context of the pandemic, the restrictions imposed, and the drastic drop in production capacity and labor market volume, a significant number of Muslim migrant workers have lost their jobs and sources of livelihood, and are unable to move either within the country or out of Russia. This led to an increase in property crimes by this category of migrants and an additional influx of Muslims in penitentiary institutions.
Thus, according to data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, the number of crimes committed by foreigners in Russia in Q1 2020 increased by 2.2 percent and reached almost 9,500.
A serious problem for Muslim prisoners is the restriction of contacts with representatives of the Muslim clergy. This opens up opportunities for active action by representatives of non-conventional organizations and the recruitment of Muslim prisoners into the ranks of terrorist structures banned in Russia.
The representative of the SAM of the Republic of Tatarstan, Marsel Hazrat Mingaleev, notes the significant progress achieved in the interaction between Islamic religious organizations, prison administrations, and Muslim prisoners.
Work with these Muslims begins with the basics of Islam to fill the gaps in their religious education. Almost all prisoners quickly realize where and how they have been led astray by the imposition of false values and are horrified at how many sins they have committed.
On the part of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia, employees of psychological units work with convicted extremists and terrorists. They are trained at the Islamic studies course, which has been running at Kazan Federal University since 2013. More than 350 FPS employees from all regions took the courses, which are taught by respected imams and religious scholars who have great respect among Muslims. Their knowledge is very important for work with the inmates, the work which allows not the slightest mistake, even in the smallest detail of everyday life.
This engagement provides a great basis for the relief of the situation of Muslim prisoners.
7. Reflection of the Muslim theme in the sphere of culture and art
The need to protect the rights of Muslims in the cultural sphere has recently become urgent. Recently, attacks on traditional values and the religious and cultural foundations of modern society have intensified. The main purpose is to discredit and erode the cultural code. Television, cinema, theater, literature, and music are the usual tools of such information campaigns.
In 2020, the screen adaptation of the novel "Zuleikha" by the famous Russian writer Guzel Yakhina drew the public attention. The show aired on the TV channel Russia-1 in April 2020 caused widespread indignation and legitimate criticism from the Muslim community.
The head of the SAMR Mufti Albir Krganov sent appeals to Oleg Dobrodeyev, Director General of the All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (the VGTRK), and Igor Barinov, Head of the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs, expressing the position of numerous letters to the SAMR from Muslim organizations and worshippers after the airing of the second series of the TV series "Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes" on channel Russia-1.
In his appeal, the Mufti stressed that he received a lot of negative messages and feedback on the content of the show, which features the names of respected and famous muftis of modern Russia as political prisoners, as well as on the revealing and intimate encounter in a mosque.
"We express our bewilderment at the level of the filmmakers' knowledge of history and consider the footage shown to the whole of Russia to be a false fact and an insult to the feelings of Muslim worshippers. All this caused a great negative public resonance, and today more than ever we all need unity of society and cohesion," the letter says.
The leader the SAMR asked the head of the VGTRK to look into this situation and give explanations as to who was consulting on the plot of the series. The head of the SAMR suggested considering the inclusion of a similar issue for discussion in the agenda of the meeting of the Public Council under the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs, taking control to prevent similar situations in the future and recommending the filmmakers to provide explanations to the general public.
"The names and surnames of muftis are the names of very famous religious figures in the Muslim world, both historical and living today. <…> Our community took it as an insult, because it is a list of political prisoners, they are allegedly sent to Siberia. <…> I think that in the end those people who made this mistake should apologize to the Muslim community and personally to the respected muftis for what happened," said Krganov in an interview with TASS.
"The religious theme is a very delicate one for all peoples, all faiths. You can't excite people with various hints like that. This is irresponsible," commented on the scandal Talgat Tadzhuddin, Supreme Mufti and Chairman of the Central Muslim Spiritual Board of Russia.
The Mufti of Kamil Samigullin also criticized the series, stressing that Muslims outraged by the bed scene in the mosque began contacting him after the show was released. "Muslim outrage is understandable: mocking Muslim religious values and relics would be unforgivable blasphemy," he wrote in his Telegram channel.
The position of the representative of the Muslim clergy was supported by representatives of public and human rights organizations. In particular, Aleksandr Brod, member of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, filed an appeal with the National Association of Broadcasters and the Public Collegium for Press Complaints. "I believe that the broadcasting community and the experts who review appeals to the Press Complaints Board should analyze these remarks, these scenes that angered Russian Muslims, and give their assessment," the human rights activist argued his position.
The problem of banning religious books remains relevant. The recognition of Abd al-Rahman al-Sadi's interpretation of the Quran as extremist by a Samara court in August 2020, as well as the banning of some other classical works, have raised many questions in the Muslim community in Russia. The Central Muslim Spiritual Board of Russia, represented by Imam Nail Suleymanov, supported the ban of certain Islamic books. The Council of Muftis of Russia, on the contrary, in its statement against the ban on Tafseer as-Sadi in translation by Kuliev, noted: "For more than a decade it has been used as a supporting literature in Muslim educational institutions, and is also a desk book for many imams and teachers, and has proved itself in a positive way".
Earlier, when asked by journalists about carrying out an expert analysis and banning religious books, Rafik Mukhametshin, Ph.D. in Political Science, Rector of the Russian Islamic Institute, Chairman of the Council for Islamic Education of Russia, pointed out that there are no clear mechanisms for the prohibition. In particular, religious examination is being replaced by linguistic examination, which is more formal and allows for an out-of-context evaluation of any text fragment. As noted by many experts, on the basis of such expertise, almost any book can be banned, even children's fairy tales by Andersen, Pushkin and other famous authors.
"Today this issue is being resolved at the level of district courts. For some reason they are into linguistic expertise, but not theological or religious expertise," said Mukhametshin. He emphasized that this kind of expertise should be conducted by the Muslim professional community. The advisory body created under the Ministry of Justice did not change the situation with the ban on Muslim books. "Today there is no all-Russian expert community to which the courts could turn as well. This is not the level of district courts — to ban Muslim literature", - said Mukhametshin.
8. The situation of Muslim migrants during the pandemic
In 2020 the pandemic of the new coronavirus infection has become an urgent problem negatively affecting the situation of Muslims in Russia. The main victims were migrants from Russia's closest neighbors in the region, primarily Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan.
The head of the SAMR, Mufti Albir Krganov, noted that today there are several problems most frequently raised by citizens of the CIS and other countries. The first problem is the legalization on the territory of the Russian Federation. Those who worked legally are now gone. By the New Year more people will be leaving. The remaining migrants are not legalized because they can be deported or expelled. For this reason, many continue to work illegally. They cannot get an official job, and the employer, knowing that they are staying illegally, may abuse their position, in particular, may not pay their due wages. Many migrants are still in the dark about the possibility of legalization.
The second main problem arises from the fact that migrants do not know their rights under labor law. Even if the contract is formalized, many migrants do not know the algorithm of actions in the case of non-payment of due wages. Many people do not realize that the conclusion of a contract with the employer is a guarantee that they can defend their rights. If a migrant is in Russia illegally, if he does not have a patent to work or has not registered with the migration service, the chances that he will be able to protect his rights are greatly reduced. In turn, a dishonest employer, taking advantage of the inexperience of migrant workers, does not sign labor contracts with them. Migrants, of course, can try to defend their wages through the labor inspectorate or the court. But they have to be prepared that they will be banned from entering the country for 5 years for working without a patent or a work permit. More often it is because they are afraid of the consequences that they cannot defend their wages. Without any wages, migrants find themselves on the street: without any means of livelihood, desperate, in debt bondage, they become an easy prey for extremist groups and criminal networks operating on the territory of our country.
Issues of non-payment of wages are usually resolved in settlements. Employers do not want to pay large fines and willingly agree to pay migrant labor before the trial.
The third problem concerns entry into Russia. Migrants with patents who have gone on vacation to their home country often ask if it is possible to re-enter on the basis of a work permit or patent. Sometimes they even tell of cases where the executives of employing companies often contact them, saying that they are very welcome, that the company might not even make it through a quarter without them. Many come to Russia only for work, so the lack of grounds for entry worries them greatly. In their homeland they cannot fully apply the knowledge, skills, and abilities they acquired in Russia, and the wages and opportunities there are very different.
Finally, the fourth problem concerns the advance payments for the patent. A migrant pays for his patent in order to officially work for a company. Then the employer also pays tax on his wages. That is, there is double taxation on the income of an individual. The migrant himself will not be able to return the advance payment. He turns to his employer. The latter, however, does not always agree to deal with the problem. Solving this issue would help make life at least somewhat easier for migrants. For non-payment of tax a migrant becomes an "illegal". In this capacity, he does not benefit the society because his activities are not taxed.
A separate acute problem is the restrictions on the departure of migrants from Russian territory due to the fact that in the context of the pandemic the CIS countries closed the border with Russia, significantly limiting the admission of their citizens. This caused serious tensions and led to a number of conflict situations. A problem spot emerged in the Republic of Dagestan, where in the spring of 2020 a temporary tent camp was set up for Azerbaijani citizens who intended to return to their homeland.
A temporary accommodation center was opened on the border of Derbent and Magaramkent districts for Azerbaijani citizens who were unable to get home because the border closure. The first group of Azerbaijanis left for their homeland on May 18, 2020.
On June 2, 619 Azerbaijani nationals remained on the Dagestan border after 120 of their countrymen were taken home. People build makeshift shelters and suffer from heat and unsanitary conditions, said Asim Tagiev, a resident of the tent camp.
On June 15, a protest rally took place in the camp, which turned into a clash with the security forces. Four law enforcers and 10 Azerbaijanis were injured. 83 protesters were placed under arrest for 10 days. A criminal case was brought against 10 other Azerbaijanis for violence against government officials and deliberate destruction or damage to property, all of whom were arrested by court order for two months. Those arrested need effective protection, said participants in a video conference organized by the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety. The protesters pleaded not guilty.
On the territory of the camp, the Azerbaijani side has deployed several tents, which are used as a kitchen-canteen, as well as administrative offices. A representative of the Azerbaijani leadership is permanently in the camp, who, among other things, compiles a list of people to be sent home, and a medical officer and two psychologists are also on duty here, said Fuad Shikhiev, acting head of the Derbent district.
Another difficult situation arose in Rostov and Volgograd Oblasts, in connection with the organization of sending Uzbek nationals to Uzbekistan. In September 2020, Rostov regional authorities organized two tent camps for residents of Uzbekistan who could not return home because the border closure due to the COVID-19 epidemic. On September 19 and 23, more than 1,500 people were able to leave for Tashkent. After the departure of the last group, 715 people remained in Kamensk-Shakhtinsky.
The authorities announced that they would be transported by bus to the town of Volzhsky in Volgograd Oblast. However, at least a hundred citizens of Uzbekistan, who were promised to be sent from Volzhsky to their home country, could not buy train tickets on September 25. On September 29, the Volgograd Oblast Muftiate provided basement mosque premises to 230 migrants from Uzbekistan. Locals brought them food, pillows, and blankets.
Protecting the rights of Muslim migrants under the circumstances of the pandemic and the unfavorable social and economic consequences has become a subject of special attention of Muslim religious organizations, in particular the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia.
On September 2, 2020 the SAMR opened the Center for Legal Protection and Socio-Cultural Adaptation of Migrants, the primary function of which is to provide assistance to migrants. This project focuses on the adaptation and integration of migrants into the unified legal and cultural field of the Russian Federation, reducing crime rates, and strengthening inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations by teaching migrants the basics of the Russian language and law and integrating them into the multicultural environment of Russia.
Albir Krganov, The Chairman of the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia, stressed that people of any ethnicity and religion can apply for help regardless of their official status in Russia.
"I believe that we should help those who are in the country illegally to understand the Russian law, to legalize and live according to conscience and the law. People who bring in illegals use them: it is difficult for illegals to defend their rights. Ultimately, it is problematic both for the migrant and for the state. We will all think together how to help such people, because our goal is to help, not to fine or expel a person," Krganov said.
The Mufti noted that the SAMR cooperates with non-profit organizations, embassies, the Interior Ministry, all of which also supported the project, "and other agencies in order to respond promptly to incidents in the regions and help people." He emphasized that such work will contribute to the prevention of extremism and criminal activity, the strengthening of inter-ethnic and multi-confessional relations and the cultural adaptation of migrants, including through the teaching of the basics of the Russian language.
Regional offices of the Center were opened at mosques and religious centers in 25 regions of the Russian Federation. On November 25, 2020, the information portal rosmigrant.ru was launched under the Center, with various relevant applications and the option to obtain information in several languages (Russian, Tajik, Uzbek, Kyrgyz).
"Since the start of our project we have received a great number of appeals from migrants - now we receive up to 40 appeals every day. We not only consult and solve questions remotely, but also provide assistance directly in our parishes and mosques," said Albir Krganov.
The Center advises all migrants, regardless of what country they come from or their confessional affiliation. For example, there were even appeals from citizens of the Congo and Côte d'Ivoire. Most appeals come from migrants from countries of the former Soviet Union.
The most frequent requests are related to issues of legalization on the territory of the Russian Federation, delayed payment of wages, decisions on expulsion and deportation, obtaining work visas, residence permits, and citizenship. Most of them have been solved and positive feedback has been received from the people who have applied.
In this difficult situation for Muslim migrants, they were assisted not only by members of the public, but also by the Russian state authorities. On April 18, 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree regulating the legal status of foreign nationals in the country in relation to the spread of the coronavirus. On the same day, the Interior Ministry said that the validity of visas for foreigners who remained in Russia during the epidemic of coronavirus will automatically be extended until June 15.
The visas were subsequently extended two more times. The last time this happened was on September 15, 2020. The period of validity of visas was extended by 185 days.
Experts note that the migration legislation of the Russian Federation, which has long been criticized for its inconsistency and repressive bias, is gradually becoming more humane. And with the pandemic, the Interior Ministry's decision gave the migration authorities a chance to legalize all those who stay in the country without legal status.
9. Fomenting inter-religious discord
In 2020 one of the serious challenges for Russian Muslims was the sharp aggravation of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which escalated into an active military phase. Unfortunately, a number of ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijanis, both citizens and non-citizens of the Russian Federation, have taken the confrontation to the streets of Moscow and some other Russian regions, flagrantly violating the Russian law and the rights and interests of Russian citizens. For example, in July 2020 there were mass fights between Azerbaijanis and Armenians in Lublinskaya and Bratislavskaya Streets in southeastern Moscow.
Besides, there were recorded cases of infringement of the rights of ethnic Azerbaijani Muslims, with ethnic Armenians demonstratively refusing orders, goods, and services.
Such actions qualify as incitement to ethnic and religious hatred.
Moreover, the opinions of various groups of the Russian society were divided, but the majority assumed neutrality, believing that the war in Nagorno-Karabakh should not concern Russia. This was also confirmed by the officials — the heads of the republics and Islamic spiritual leaders — who urged the sides to negotiate.
Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, appealed to Armenians and Azerbaijanis to stop the "needless bloodshed."
The Mufti of the SAMR Albir Krganov also called on the parties of the conflict "to stop military operations, return to the implementation of previous agreements and sit down at the negotiating table."
This position was echoed by Mufti of the Coordinating Center for Muslims of the North Caucasus Ismail Berdiev, who stated that it is necessary "to negotiate and find ways to solutions", "both sides of the conflict must understand that military actions lead to no good."
At the same time, some statements by representatives of the Russian Islamic Ummah made no secret of their explicit support for the Azerbaijani army. For example, Ruslan Nagiev, a Kazan lawyer, posted an image of an Azerbaijani flag on his user picture with the caption: "We are with you, Azerbaijani soldier!" On October 27, 2020, Nail Nabiullin, a public activist and publisher of the newspaper "Turkic Look", published a new issue of the newspaper with the slogan "Azerbaijan, our hearts are with you!" on the title page.
It is important to understand that such actions of some representatives of the Muslim community are of defiant character and can provoke an inter-ethnic or inter-confessional conflict inside Russia, which will have a most negative effect on the situation of Russian Muslims. In a situation of significant deterioration of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, we must not allow actions aimed at inciting inter-religious discord to happen.
Conclusions and practical recommendations
The analysis of the situation concerning the rights of Muslims in the Russian Federation allows us to deduce that there are a number of systemic problems. At the same time, the existing experience of harmonization of inter-ethnic and inter-confessional relations in the society allows the state to effectively solve the existing problems. Constructive interaction between the authorities and the civil society and continuous dialogue between representatives of ethnic and confessional communities remain a key factor of effective progress in this area.
Russian President Vladimir Putin: "The spiritual leaders of Russia have a special role to harmonise inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations and prevent extremism and terrorism. People listen to your opinions, your words, and when you voice your position of solidarity, your clear commitment to the values of peace, kindness and mercy – this is extremely important."
Having studied the situation of Muslims, the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia and the Russian Association for the Protection of Religious Freedom offer the following recommendations to the state authorities and civil society institutions.
For the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation:
— to increase the effectiveness of legislative support of issues related to the protection of the rights of worshippers (including Muslims) with the involvement of experts in Islamic law and expert religious scholars
— to raise the issue of intensifying human rights activities within the framework of international parliamentary institutions with the involvement of spiritual leaders of Russian Islamic organizations regarding the problems of the Middle East, the observance of Muslim rights in the EU countries and the USA
— to consider the possibility of amending the Land Code of the Russian Federation to define a single standard for allocation of a land plot to centralized religious organizations of traditional religions of the Russian Federation that are an integral part of the historical heritage of the peoples of Russia, in accordance with the Federal Law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" No. 125-FZ of September 26, 1997
For the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation:
— to send recommendations to the courts on the need of attracting respected representatives of centralized and educational Muslim organizations and experts in Islamic law to assess the Islamic literature for signs of extremism
For the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation jointly with the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, and the Federal Penitentiary Service:
— to develop practical courses and educational programs within the framework of professional development for specialists of relevant ministries and departments, local authorities in the area of interaction with the Muslim community
— to develop and publish, with the assistance of centralized Muslim organizations, methodological manuals and online training programs to implement these goals
For the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia and the Federal Penitentiary Service:
— to strengthen the interaction between public councils and Muslim organizations in the regions, with the inclusion of the leaders of Muslim organizations in the composition of public councils in the recommended order
For the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation:
— to approve the register of experts in religious studies recommended for engagement in religious studies expertise, trained at the specialized department of state and confessional relations of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. To involve experts from the professional Muslim community in the work of the group of specialists.
For the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs:
— to increase efforts in organizing cooperation and developing joint activities with centralized Muslim religious organizations of Russia in the field of prevention of discrimination on ethnic and religious grounds
— in order to prevent religious discrimination in educational institutions, to prepare proposals for the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation with a request to introduce additional qualification and knowledge requirements for persons allowed to work on the "Fundamentals of Religious Cultures and Secular Ethics" course
— to provide information support for the human rights activities of centralized Muslim religious organizations in Russia
— to work on the development of presentations, programs, methodological materials, and situational training on legal education for worshippers
For the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation:
— to establish the practice of holding public hearings on legislative initiatives concerning the regulation of religious issues, freedom of religion, and the rights of representatives of religious communities
For civil society institutions:
— to strengthen information coordination in social networks, blogosphere, Telegram channels for the timely detection and recording of violations of the rights of Russian Muslims, including those who are abroad
— to actively counteract xenophobic manifestations in the media and social networks, to form independent network platforms to promote an objective view of Islam, to overcome its securitization, and to oppose Islamophobic and extremist (in the name of Islam) pseudo-religious discourse
— to intensify interaction with centralized religious organizations of Muslims of Russia in order to develop common approaches to human rights activities and to provide legal protection to persons subjected to discrimination
For creative unions, cultural figures, representatives of the media:
— to observe universally accepted ethical norms, take into account the rights and interests of different confessional groups of citizens of the Russian Federation when creating artistic works or placing information materials related to religious topics
For centralized and local Muslim organizations, higher and secondary Muslim educational organizations and social structures:
— to conduct regular courses to improve legal literacy and legal culture
— to engage legal experts and jurisprudence, law enforcement officials, and leading universities in the field of law
Muslim Rights Violations in Foreign Countries
Discriminatory measures against Muslims occur in virtually every part of the world. The roots of prejudice against worshippers and violations of their rights can be found both in radical or nationalist ideologies (physical violence is also common in countries with this situation) and in a country's adherence to liberal and secular values.
In recent years the most alarming situation has been observed in India, Myanmar, China, Afghanistan, the Middle East and Western countries.
In India nationalism and radical pseudo-Hinduism are common ideologies under the banner of which crimes against religious communities are committed. Radical followers of those and tribal religions have the support of the nationalist BJP party that came to power. False accusations of "violent conversion" and "blasphemy" become a formal excuse for widespread aggression against members of other religions.
Violence against Muslims spiked in late February 2020 in New Delhi, where Muslims protested against adopted amendments to the citizenship law. According to these amendments, representatives of six ethno-religious groups from neighboring countries could obtain citizenship, but the situation of Muslim migrants was ignored, and as a result they were deprived of the opportunity to become citizens. The riots led to an increase in attacks on members of the Muslim community in the capital, and mosques were repeatedly set on fire. The police left the acts of violence against Muslims unpunished. A group of radical Hindus set fire to a mosque in Ashok Nagar. The crime was accompanied by the shouting of the words of the Hindu hymn. Not only the police ignored most of the appeals of Muslims for physical violence, but law enforcement officers took part in pogroms. During the riots, the police attacked a number of Muslim civilians, including those who were not participating in the mass demonstrations.
Tensions remain high in the nation's capital. An example of religion-based violence by the Hindu population is the attack by radicals on two Muslims in New Delhi. The perpetrators stopped two young Muslim men, Mohammed Adil and Mohammed Kamil, on their way home from a drugstore. As a result of the brutal beating, one of the worshippers was hospitalized. Proof of the anti-Muslim nature of the crime was the fact that the criminals showed aggression after they saw the young men wearing traditional Islamic headwear — tubeteikas. Before the attack, one of the radicals mockingly suggested that the worshipper sing the lines of the Hindu hymn. The police also found out that there had been attempts of mass attacks on Muslims. Police officers learned about the creation by Hindu radicals of a group in WhatsApp messenger in which appeals to attack Muslims were made. According to the police, nine people have already become victims of radicals. Their deaths occurred during the February protests.
According to the U.S. State Department's 2018 International Religious Freedom Report, nearly 80 Pakistanis are in jail on "blasphemy" charges, among them not only Christians but also Muslims. At least 28 of them were sentenced to death.
Since 2019 there have been three anti-Muslim terrorist attacks in the Pakistani city of Quetta. The first of these took place on May 24, 2019. The last two attacks occurred on August 16, 2019 and January 10, 2020. In the first, four people were killed and 15 worshippers were wounded when a bomb exploded in the building. The second killed 13 people and injured more than 20. These attacks were carried out by extremist groups. It is becoming evident that the city is under systematic pressure from radical organizations.
Among the anti-Muslim terrorist acts in Asian countries the attack on October 18, 2020 in the Afghan province of Nangarhar should be highlighted. As in the attack in Quetta, worshippers of the mosque were the victims. The explosion occurred during Friday prayers and took the lives of at least 62 worshippers. About 60 people were injured. The probable cause of the terrorist action is said to be the ongoing armed conflict on the territory of the country. And extremist organizations are the alleged perpetrators. On June 12, 2020, terrorists targeted the Sher Shah Suri mosque in western Kabul.
The situation in Myanmar is also turbulent. This is due to the ongoing armed conflict in the country and the persecution of the Rohingya people. The report of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Myanmar reported that Myanmar Muslims were systematically persecuted by the government. Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the Commission, stated that followers of Islam from this national minority are at risk of genocide. Muslims are also victims of armed conflict between separatists of the Arakan Army and government troops. On February 29, 2020, an artillery attack by a separatist group killed three Muslims in Rokhine State.
In China worshippers are also subject to police abuse. In that country, it is motivated by communist ideology. There are constant reports of wrongful arrests, beatings of worshippers protesting against the demolition or closure of mosques, and imprisonment of Muslims.
There is widespread physical violence against Muslims in the U.S. and Europe. As a rule, radicals target members of civilian Muslim communities. The attacks are motivated by racial and religious hatred. As community representatives note, the number of such attacks increases every year, which may indicate the rise of nationalist forces in the European Union and the United States.
The phenomenon of religiophobia is particularly widespread in the countries with a strongly secular ideology, such as the United States and Western Europe. Frequent manifestations of religiophobia in 2019–2020 were the burning of mosques and anti-Muslim actions. In Europe, the increase in such incidents is associated with the rise of nationalist ideas and a general increase in anti-religious hatred, especially Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.
According to the Turkish Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, the number of Islamophobic crimes in Europe has increased. This is confirmed by a number of high-profile cases. On August 10, 2019, a terrorist attack was carried out in a suburb of the Norwegian capital of Oslo. A young white man opened fire in a mosque. As a result, a 75-year-old member of the religious community was wounded. In July 2019, a 59-year-old member of the Muslim community was the victim of a brutal massacre in the United States. In February 2020, in Great Britain, the Central Mosque in London was attacked. As a result of the attack the imam was injured. He was hospitalized with severe injuries. In June 2020, German police prevented an anti-Muslim attack by arresting a 21-year-old man from the city of Hildesheim.
From April to June 2020, the German police recorded 188 hate crimes against Muslims. These incidents led to nine injured worshippers.
Among the legislative initiatives restricting the rights of Muslims in European countries, it is worth noting the bans on the wearing of Muslim clothing in the Netherlands and Austria. In the Netherlands, restrictions apply to face-covering clothing in a number of public places. In Austria, an initiative to ban teachers from wearing traditional Islamic headscarves was launched by the conservative Austrian People's Party.
In Europe, there is persecution of religious figures who step up to defend traditional values and preach without relying on accepted notions of tolerance. A number of European countries, following Switzerland, have enacted laws criminalizing expressions of disagreement with LGBT and transgender ideology. Alarming is the ban on expressing Christian and Muslim perspectives on LGBT ideology lessons in schools in the United Kingdom and the United States. After Muslim parents protested against propaganda in a Birmingham junior high school, the city court forbade worshippers from protesting on school grounds. This led to the risk of conviction of a Muslim, Jabar Hussain, who had forbidden his son to attend classes of non-traditional values.
Thus, violations of the right to freedom of conscience of Muslims in the modern world can be broken into three main groups: acts of physical violence, discrimination by state authorities and increasing trends of Islamophobia based on the growth of nationalism and the spread of secular values.
 According to the UN World Food Programme, the number of people on the brink of starvation could double over the next year and reach 270 million.
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 Terrorist organization banned in Russia
 Terrorist organization banned in Russia
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 Terrorist organization banned in Russia
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