Staunton, July 26 – Conflicts between the Muslim communities of Yekaterinburg and Kazan and the authorities are escalating, in the first case over whether the Islamic community will ever be allowed to build a mosque as it as long been promised and in the second over whether Muslims will sit still for the installation of monitoring equipment in mosques.
The situation in Yekaterinburg is the direct result of the controversy over whether to build an Orthodox cathedral in the center of the Urals city. After protests, the authorities backed down but immediately offered five other locations where such a church facility could in face be erected.
That has sparked anger among the Muslim community there which has been promised land for a mosque since the 1990s only to have its requests for the allocation of such property rejected again and again. If it is so easy to find space for another church, why can’t there be found land for a mosque?
As a result of that and the failure of the city authorities to agree to enter into negotiations with the umma, Muslims in that Urals city have begun a series of unsanctioned meetings to make demands, meetings that copy those the opponents of the Orthodox cathedral used with such success (politsovet.ru/63482-musulmane-pomolilis-za-mechet-na-zemle-ugmk.html).
There is no sign of movement by the authorities yet, but Sergey Aksyonov of Svobodnaya pressa suggests that “the consequences of the inability of the local authorities to conduct a dialogue with citizens in this instance can be tragic,” given that the Muslims will seldom have a clearer indication that they are second class citizens as far as the authorities are concerned (svpressa.ru/society/article/239012/).
Meanwhile, a Russian call to install monitoring devices in mosques in Tatarstan has led to an unsanctioned protest there will activists of the All-Tatar Social Center (VTOTs) organizing a meeting denouncing that idea and carrying posters declaring that “a mosque is not a prison” and “Tatarstan is becoming Xinjiang” (idelreal.org/a/30075354.html).n
If the authorities do move ahead with the installation of monitoring devices in the mosques of Tatarstan in the name of national security, the result almost certainly will be more anger and more protests against this violation of the religious rights of Muslims – and an expanded conflict between the Islamic community and the Russian state.
In addition, such protests are already seeking to force the government of Tatarstan to choose between being supportive of their own Muslim citizens or obeying the demands of Moscow. If Kazan does the former, there will be one kind of conflict; if it does the latter, there will be another, perhaps even more serious in terms of stability in the Middle Volga.