After the terrorist attacks had been held in Brussels, a new one Islamophobia surged the world society was out. On March 27, at the studio of “Hromadske Radio”, Mufti of Religious Administration of Muslims of Ukraine “UMMA” Said Ismagilov commented on the current situation: how to overcome Islamophobia, to demolish myths and to be unaffected by the media.
What are the odds that the events, which have happened in European countries, will take place in Ukraine? Sometimes the media associates terrorism solely with the Muslim world – is it fair, how do you think?
— Of course it is not. The fact of the matter is that there are a huge number of terrorist organizations: left, right, pro-fascist, in different cultures, on different continents. And, in general, the phenomenon of terrorism didn’t emerge in the Muslim world. However, the problem is that in recent decades, such high-profile crimes were constantly being associated with the so-called “Islamic terrorism”, although the terrorism has neither religion nor nationality. Therefore, I think, it is incorrectly to associate the religion with criminals.
There is a version that the “Islamic state” is connected with “Russian world”.
— I have already heard of that in the conversations with Syrians since the very beginning of this quasiterritorial formation. As it is obvious to us that the DPR and the LPR are the Russian products, as well as it is quite clear for ordinary Syrians that the ISIS is also a product of Russia, they don’t doubt this fact. Of course, I cannot provide any evidence, but it is the opinion of the Syrian inhabitants. It is indirectly confirmed with the fact that the largest number of foreign fighters in the ranks of the so-called “Islamic State” consists of the immigrants from Russia and they are approximately two and a half thousand people. And after its invasion of Syria had been launched, why did Russia strike the Syrian opposition, and did not strike the “Islamic state”?
In occupied Crimea, many representatives of the local prosecutor's office often talk about the fact that many Crimean Tatars, in the ranks of ISIS, went to fight in Syria. Is that so?
— I don’t have any information on this statement. Believe me, none of the supporter of the radical groups with such ideology comes and acknowledges that he shares its ideas and is going to join it. I have only the official information, which the Security Service of Ukraine provides; it mentions about 50 people from Ukraine, who are in the ranks of the ISIS and other groups. But if we compare 50 people from Ukraine and 2,500 from Russia, the Crimean prosecutor's office should only have to keep silent.
The foreign media said that the acts of terror were the result of the Islamization of Europe. What do you think of this opinion?
— Firstly, no Islamization takes place in Europe. These horror stories most often are triggered off with the far-right parties. These sentiments are provoked by a large number of refugees, who have crossed from Asia to Germany by some marvelous channels, while some corridors to ten countries were opened and hundreds of thousands of people crossed it. Try to travel in the EU without visa, without required documents even from Ukraine – how far could you go? However, these corridors had been opened, hundreds of thousands of people entered the territory of Europe, and then a surge of terrorist attacks started in France, and now it spreads in Belgium, furthermore, all the attacks are held for noise and intimidation. They are certainly related to the foreigners of Arab origin, although the great numbers of these people have been living for decades in Europe.
Due to Europe's colonial policy in relation to the "third world" countries, the immigrants from such countries formed the significant enclaves in some of those European countries. But only after Europe had got a huge number of refugees, the loud resonance terrorist attacks began, and Muslims, as well as Islamists, are charged with perpetration of that. But in fact, after the beginning of the occupation of Crimea in 2014, a global shift happened: all the international treaties were actually cancelled. Now the world war is going on, including the European space, in which one of the parties is Russia. The consolidated position of the European countries harms Russia by embargo, pressure, sanctions. The Global Geopolitics has moved to a higher level.
How to resist the Islamophobia, as well as to demolish the myths, and not to succumb to the influence of the media?
— Each person should think with his head. But, unfortunately, many people simply believe the information of the media, which often does not check it properly. For example, the Muslims of Ukraine have never done anything wrong, while, after those terrorist attacks, the Islamophobia is increasing in our country. But what have we done? How do we refer to those things which are happening in France and in Belgium? How can we influence it? Why do we have to take responsibility for other people? It is not even clear whether they are Islamists: or perhaps they are the saboteurs of some third forces interested in destabilizing and destroying the European Union. I am surprised that our Ukrainian citizens succumb to this surge of the Islamophobia. Our duty is to break it. We must show that we are peaceful people like everyone else in Ukraine.
You presented the book the other day. Tell us about it.
— A well-known specialist in Islamic studies from the National University “Ostroh Academy”, Mykhaylo Yakubovych, wrote the book “Islam in Ukraine. History and Modern Times”. We plan to launch the presentations in various cities of Ukraine. By the use of this book, we want to show Ukrainians that Muslims of Ukraine are not some aggressive, antisocial immigrants. On the contrary: they are the same people who have been living in the lands of Ukraine for many centuries.
Is the Muslim community integrated tightly enough in Ukrainian society?
— Yes, it is. Of course, there are migrants who have recently arrived in Ukraine, but they do not represent the majority. The Muslim community of Ukraine is doing its best to integrate them more quickly, so they do not create their own closed ghetto.
How to discern the difference between the moderate Muslims and the radical ones?
— There are approximately one and a half billion Muslims in the world. The vast majority, more than 90%, are normal and moderate Muslims without any radicalism. Not all Muslims are similar; Islam has not avoided crushing into different directions. Most people know about the Sunnis and the Shiites. The vast majority of Muslims in Ukraine are moderate Sunnis who do not sympathize with radical moods. We do not have a tendency to radicalization. But there are certain radical groups, such as “Al-Qaeda”, “Islamic state” in the world, which people join, because they sympathize with its ideas. These are devotee of shooting for money, stealing, raping and killing. There are people who just tend to realize themselves through violence. But these radical groups are very few — tens of thousands from one and a half billion.
How does Quran interpret jihad? Does it have the same sense for radical and moderate Muslims?
— “Jihad”, as a term, means “effort” that, first and foremost, should be aimed at overcoming the internal spiritual, personal, human weaknesses. Firstly, the jihad is a struggle against own weaknesses. Secondly, jihad for Muslims is the scheme of the just society, the struggle against social vices, the struggle for freedom of expression, the fight against slavery. And the narrowest sense of jihad is a defense in case of enemy attack. The Prophet Muhammad said that every man is obliged to protect himself, his family, children, relatives, country from these attacks. All Ukrainians understand it very well after Ukraine had suffered aggression on the part of the neighboring state. The radicals differ from other Muslims that their leaders treat many theological terms in a very restricted way, often by changing its meaning. Many radicals are uneducated people; I would not be surprised if they have never read Koran. They receive the information directly from the leaders, and the person follows the crowd, which listens to the leader. If a person begins to doubt the words, which are said to him, they get rid of him immediately.
In Yahotyn, it is planning to found the town, where Syrian refugees could settle. What does Ukraine have to do in order to this idea may become successful?
— The refugees from Syria, even in small quantities, are already living in Ukraine. They came as soon as the war broke out — mostly by family ties. For two years they were not being caught in any crime or anti-social activities. As for the idea of refugees’ settling in Yahotyn — I think that it's a bad idea. The town is small, mono-ethnic and monocultural. 200 refugees from another country is not a big number, but they do not know the language or the culture, and there is no mosque in Yahotyn. But, if they resettled in some big city where there are foreigners, mosque, Muslim community, which will help these refugees to integrate - it would be much easier and safer. For example, there are seven mosques in Odesa, Kyiv has just two. If they were given some kind of program for adaptation, helped to find a job and to send children to school, the city with million citizens would not notice them. A small town treats any strangers negatively and wary.
Did the Muslim society accept the Russian fighters in the occupied territories?
— The fear reigns in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Lugansk regions. People are afraid of everything, even to speak aloud in their own kitchens. Because of the constant denunciations, basements and prisons are overcrowded by arrested people. When the occupation began, the Muslim community didn’t welcome that. Many religious groups, such as Protestants, Muslims, Jews, Greek Catholics, Orthodox believers of Kyiv Patriarchate, understood clearly what would happen with those lands after illegal armed groups arrived: terror, violence, deprivation of rights and freedoms. Everyone talked about it aloud until he could. At present it is just dangerous in the occupied territories.
Source: Hromadske Radio