Interview with Dr. Emad Abu Ar-Rub, Head of Fatwa Committee
In the past, Islam in Ukraine used to be confined to historically Muslim regions as Crimea, and was basically limited to ethnic and sectarian boundaries. But now, a growing number of Muslims in Ukraine are forming different faces of Islam, as the Islamic discourse and activism represent a vital role in promoting for this phenomenon. Hailing from the Crimean Tatars, Azeri people, Chechens, and Arabs, Ukrainian Muslims come from an able-bodied history.
In this day and age, collaboration among Ukrainian Muslims is changing the face of Islam in Ukraine and its social integration, as they gain major support from Ukrainian governmental bodies and Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Turkey.
Islam existed and flourished over time and since the time of the Tatars, as the country comes home to near 2 millions of Islam followers.
According to Europenews, "Over the past three years, the number of mosques in Ukraine has grown by some 50 percent. This growth has primarily taken place in the Kherson region (south part of Ukraine).
"According to the State Committee, the Muslims of Ukraine have 238 religious buildings in the Crimea and 81 in other regions of the country. The network of Islamic religious organizations in Ukraine gained autonomy five times faster than in the Autonomic Republic of Crimea. In early 2008 the network included 133 organizations, in early 2011, 199."
OnIslam.net investigated more about the status of Muslims and their organizations in Ukraine through this interview with Mr. Emad Mustapha Abu Ar-Rub, the Head of Fatwa Committee in Ukraine and the Imam of the al-Massar Islamic Center, branched from the al-Raid Union in Ukraine.
OnIslam.net (OI): What are the institutions that foster the social and legal rights of Ukrainian Muslims? Could you please mention some achievements of major significance that had an impact on the representation of Ukrainian Muslims?
Muslims are achieving high-profile positions career-wise...day after day, the Muslims' spirit of effectiveness and change increases.
Dr. Emad Mustapha Abu Ar-Rub: There are some organizations that provide tangible efforts to Muslims in Ukraine; however, they vary in their capacity of performance.
One of the most significant organizations is the Union of Societal Organizations in Ukraine: al-Raid, which was able to successfully build and renovate around 120 mosques in less than twenty years, besides, taking more than 120 and more than 2,000 orphan child under its wing.
The organization also supports eight Islamic centers and more than twenty societal and Ukraine-Muslim-serving charitable associations. The association of al-Raid participates in the Muslim World League, the International Symposium of Youth, and the European Islamic Organization Union; whereby it offers different programs including beneficial activities to Muslims through educational, recreational, and guiding programs about the fundamentals, rulings, and pillars of Islam.
Other programs are provided to non-Muslims to introduce Islam's moderate outlook on life.
Owing to the pre-communist rule of Ukraine, Muslims did not enjoy the privilege of acting as influential leaders in the community; however, at the meantime, many Muslim experiences have proven that wrong.
Muslims are achieving high-profile positions career-wise, such as, the counselor of the former Ukrainian president, as some are members in Parliament, and others are official spokesman of reputable organizations. Day after day, the Muslims' spirit of effectiveness and change increases.
OI: How is it possible to revive and promote for an inter-connecting dialogue between Ukrainian Muslims and Muslim-Arab countries? And, please cite past on-the-ground achievements?
Dr. Abu Ar-Rub: It is evident that Ukrainian Muslims consider themselves as an integral organ of the Muslim nation (body), since "all Muslims are one body." Acting on this spirit, we communicate with the Arab and the Muslim World closely through numerous programs, including educational, familial, and religious courses. Besides, we held summer camps and international conferences and participate in them effectively.
In this line, and as a Ukrainian Muslim, I participated in one of the most unique programs of that kind titled "The Tenth Inter-faith Annual Conference, Doha."
As a representative of a legislative committee in Ukraine, and a subsidiary of the Religious Spiritual Administration of Ukrainian Muslims (Ummah and al-Raid Union), collectively we have paid a number of visits to different councils of Fatwa-making, like Dar Al-Ifta in each of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and others. We have agreed to cooperate and coordinate for mutual benefits for exchanging different experiences and highlighting esteemed scholars.
We have inaugurated legal organizations that specialize in covering legislative rights of Muslims and their social and legal issues.
OI: What is the number of legal circles that take responsibility of Muslim affairs in Ukraine? And, what are the rights granted by the Ukrainian law for these circles?
Dr. Abu Ar-Rub: There are no official estimates of the number of these circles, generally speaking, they exceed the thousand in number. They may vary in their level of involvement in terms of participation and offering services, as some of them are non-active associations, some are exerting minimal efforts for Muslim services, while others are active on the national level in Ukraine.
The national active organizations were able to achieve a positive role in the Ukrainian community. The Muslim community have inaugurated legal organizations that specialize in covering legislative rights of Muslims and their social and legal issues.
These organizations opt to establish a mutual trust with law makers aiming at building Muslims' respect for law in the country, and establishing the organization's contributions in all aspects of progressiveness and renaissance that strengthen the atom of the community, the family life, especially, to protect it from the destructive power of the lascivious and libertine nature of the non-Islamic countries.
As for the Ukrainian law, its sanctions do maintain a striking balance between Muslims and non-Muslims of Ukraine in terms of law-making and applying social justice. Meanwhile, one cannot allocate a specific hurdle that could curtail the coexistence of Muslim circles and Muslim organizations.
OI: We often counter harships finding a translated official and trustworthy material reflecting the real situation of Muslims in Ukraine, because of the lack of the process of translation from the Ukrainian language into the English one. How is it possible to solve such problem, and how can it affect the spread of Islam in Ukraine?
Dr. Abu Ar-Rub: My respected sister, I have glad tidings for you; we have established a number of websites that introduce Islam's and Muslims' reality in Ukraine, some of them are featuring Arabic content and others presented in English. In addition to that, those website operate in the native language of Ukrainians, both Russian and Ukrainian.
We have also developed the skills of Imams and preachers through conducting educational and training courses to teach common languages. For instance, twenty years ago, we have established al- Ansar Organization, which focuses on translating books about Islam and promoting it and Islam in general to both Muslims and non-Muslims for Da'wah purposes.
All thanks are due to Allah, the Almighty, for we welcome reviewers and those who want to cooperate with us in translating from Ukrainian into other common languages.
OI: Are there any extremist Islamic groups or individuals in Ukraine which conduct terrorist acts that negatively affect the representation of Muslims in Ukraine?
Dr. Abu Ar-Rub: Because of the communist rule mastery and controlling policy, it is banned that any opposing political party could operate under the Ukrainian government. Consequently, there lies an absence of extremist parties and none of the extremist leaders migrate to Ukraine.
We have also been keen — and we still are — to guide the mainstream young Muslims through accommodating them with the modern developments in the Ukrainian community and making them aware of more Islamic teachings to push them away from all that is extreme or radical. Things are going fine so far, Alhamdulillah.
OI: Thank you so much for your valuable responses. We hope all Muslim organizations in Ukraine and the Muslim world come together and function as a one-healthy body.
By Shahira Mahran