Russia’s Islamic Leaders Fight over Influence In Crimea

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From the very beginning of Crimean crisis a batch of Russia’s Muslim leaders started arriving at the peninsula. They feigned to “calm down” the Crimean Tatars, solve their problems and induce them to support Russian position.

The main purpose of those Muftis, as the time has shown, is gaining the Religious Administration of Muslims of Crimea as their ally for strengthening their own positions among the variety of Islamic centres of Russia, where only official muftiates reached the number of 89. Now the most powerful of them fight over influence in Crimea.

Coordinational Centre of Muslims of North Cuacasus controls over ⅓ of Russia’s 5.000 Muslim communities, being a leader in this field. Mr.Ismail Berdiev, its Mufti, hasn’t visited Crimea yet.

Religious Administration of Muslims of Tatarstan holds the second place, with 25% communities under their control. Young Tatarstan Mufti Mr. Kamil Samigullin was the first one to come to Crimea in early March and obviously left empty-handed.

After this the peninsula is visited, one by one, by Mr.Ravil Gainutdin (Head of Council of Muftis of Russia that controls about 15-18% of communities), and Mr.Albir Krganov, less powerful but not less ambitious, positioning himself as an independent Mufti of Moscow, Central region and Chuvashia.

Mr.Amirali Ablaev, the Crimean Mufti, took the guests in, but insisted in maintaining the RAMC’s independence. He didn’t reject the idea of fruitful cooperation, though. This position was publicly supported by Mr.Gainutdin, with whom the partnership relations are probably on the agenda.

Having failed in his attempts, Albir Krganov, Ravil Gainutdin’s direct rival, openly supported the margin and demonstrative pro-Russian organisation “Milli Firqa” (“People’s Party”).

Crimea became the informational battlefield between the two Muslim leaders.

Mr. Krganov found his ally in the person of scandalous Saint Petersburg activist MMr.Tanai Cholkhanov, recently banished from the Council of Muftis after the conflict he had with the Head. Mr.Cholkhanov is suspect to have links with Russian neo-fascist organisations, including “Russki obraz” (“Russian Image”) and accused in flat-out racism. Spiritual Centre of Muslims of Crimea created be the self-proclaimed Mufti of Ukraine Mr. Akhmed Tamim 4 years ago as a counter to RAMC (and still controlled by him) got in harness with them.

Articles and comments of puppet experts accusing RAMC of patronage over radical Islamic organisations started showing up on the “party’s” website and some Russian web-portals on an incredibly regular basis.

RAMC and Crimean Tatar Mejlis, after two decades of being mostly the only structures in Ukraine successfully opposing non-traditional Muslim organisations, are suddenly reckoned among the radical organisations. Assosication “Alraid”, known for its charity projects on the peninsula, is also accused of supporting extremists up to “Al-Qaeda” itself.

The margins call for banning those structures in Crimea and persecuting their activists to the fullest extent of the Russian Criminal Code.

Leaders of the Republic of Tatarstan receive unmerciful critics as well - for their attempts to establish productive contacts with Mejlis, which is supported by 70 to 90% Crimean Tatars (according to the different estimates).

RAMC, Mejlis and the Council of Muftis of Russia never reacted, preferring to ignore the margins, and “Alraid” called the accusations as “attempts of specific forces to destabilize the situation at the peninsula by inflating anti-Islamic moods and provocations”.

Sure enough,no one would pay attention to the margins’ bedtime stories if these “Islamic boogiemen stories” weren’t simultaneously repeated by the Crimean “authorities”. The latest rumor says that Crimean Tatarleader Mr. Mustafa Dzhemilev along with the Dnipropertovsk region governor Mr.Ihor Kolomoyskiy created a volunteer corps “Crimea” and plan to train Crimean Tatars.

“Milli Firqa” leader Mr. Waswi Abduraimov along with local “experts” says that Dzhemilev and Kolomoyskiy planned to start a war in Crimea. Mr. Sergey Aksenov, Prime-Minister of the unrecognized Crimean Republic, threatens the Crimean people with severe punishment if they join the battalion, and the Crimean Parliament’s “speaker” Mr.Vladimir Konstantinov promised “stiff and preventive reaction” in fighting extremism and terrorism.

Mr.Said Ismagilov, Mufti of RAMU “Umma”, thinks that this is the beginning of a campaign on discrediting the Crimean Tatars in general. “The attack on the Muslim organisations of Crimea, still only informational, is directly linked to growing unrest in Crimea. They prepare the rest of the population for mobilisation against the Crimean Tatars. And the Crimean Tatars, God forbid, are being prepared for the future repressions? The question remains open. I don’t claim anything now, still the events make me have a closer look at this issue,” - he says.

Mr.Talgat Tajuddin, Head of the oldest Central Religious Administration of Muslims of Russia, was the last one to visit Crimea this far which he did on June 12. Mr. Tajuddin, who calls himself a “Supreme Mufti”, controls about 20% of Russia's Muslim communities. He came, as others, to talk to Emirali Ablaev, but it remains unclear where they came to and how this visit changes the pattern. We’ll only mention one fact: Mufti Tajuddin has tence relations with both Mufti Gainutdin and Mufti Krganov…

by Mr.Anatoliy Beketov

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