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Saturday, 17 April 2010

Russia: Muslim parishes refusing to register or subordinate themselves to official hierarchy

Saint Petersburg MosqueSaint Petersburg Mosque. Image via Wikipedia
An increasing number of Russia’s Muslim parishes are electing not to register with the Russian government as the law requires or to subordinate themselves to any MSD, thus making their activities far more autonomous and effectively recreating the Soviet-era division between “official” and “unofficial” Islam.
In Soviet times, many Muslim believers refused to register their communities with the state, something that was often difficult if not impossible, or to cooperate with the MSDs, institutions that they frequently and reasonably viewed as adjuncts of the state in its efforts to control the faithful and to reduce Islam from a way of life to ritual.
While those who refused to register were often persecuted by the government for their activities, their communities often were the most vibrant part of the Islamic umma. And when it became possible for them to operate more openly and officially, they were the source of much of the dramatic increase in the number of mosques in the Russian Federation.
Moreover, in the new post-Soviet reality, many of these parishes were willing to work with and even subordinate themselves to the MSDs, viewing these organizations as no longer quasi-state agencies designed to limit Islam but rather as relatively independent bodies interested in promoting that.
Now, there is evidence that this is changing. In a recent interview, Galimzhan Bikmullin, the mufti of the Tyumen MSD, said that the number of officially registered Muslim communities in the southern part of his district had fallen from 81 to 48 since 2003 but that “in fact,” the number operating there has not declined but increased (
Why being like the rest and abide by the laws of the country?
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