Thursday, March 26, 2015

Russian Occupiers Want to Put All Crimean Mosques Under Single Bureaucracy

Paul Goble


            Staunton, March 26 – The Russian occupation authorities are doing something that even Moscow has recognized in the case of the Russian Federation is impossible and counter-productive -- see It is putting all of Crimea’s Muslim under a single Muslim Spiritual Directorate.


            Yesterday, Ruslan Balbek, the vice prime minister of Crimea, said that the 330 mosques on that Ukrainian peninsula, both the five with official registration and the 325 without, are being handed over to a single MSD which will be responsible for their supervision and activities (


            He said that this move will prevent sects like Hizb ut-Tahrir from engaging in struggles for new mosques.  The Russian official is certainly wrong, and for three main reasons that Moscow officials have been forced to recognize.


            First, there is no basis for MSDs in Muslim practice. They are a Russian government invention intended to control Muslim congregations by imposing an Orthodox-like hierarchy on Islamic parishes that highly value their independence. As Moscow has learned, using such hierarchies too intently leads Muslims to leave official mosques and form underground ones.


            Second, as Russian officials elsewhere admit, Islam is simply too diverse for all its various trends to be supervised by a single MSD.  It is not just a question of Sunnis and Shiia but involves various trends and national traditions that any supervision must take into consideration to be effective. Crimea, as a result of migration, is exactly the same and will have the same results.


            And third, while it is certain that the Russian occupation authorities have done this to underscore the difference between Crimea and the rest of Ukraine, that very act creates its own problems. On the one hand, it is likely to lead some of Crimea’s Muslims to reassert their ties with MSDs elsewhere in Ukraine, creating more problems for the occupiers.


            And on the other, and much more seriously, it creates a real challenge to a basic governing principle of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Moscow Patriarchate which has long argue that church borders must not be shifted when political ones are. Its objections on this score appear to have been forgotten in Crimea. One way or another, the Patriarchate will certainly remind the occupiers.




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