Saturday, September 12, 2020

Belarusian Muslim Leaders Break with Moscow Mufti and Attack Lukashenka

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 11 – In yet another indication that Belarusians are not going to defer to Moscow either before or after a possible annexation, the leaders of the two Muslim Spiritual Directorates (MSDs) have broken with the most prominent Muslim leader in Moscow and attacked Alyaksandr Lukashenka for his repressive policies.

            (On the more general problem of Belarusian attitudes now or in the event of an Anschluss, see this writer’s “A Problem for Putin: Belarus Is Not Ukraine Either Now or If Moscow Annexes It,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, September 10, 2020, at

            After Lukashenka claimed victory in heavily falsified elections, Moscow Mufti Ravil Gaynutdin, head of the MSD of the Russian Federation hurried to send him a message of congratulations ( Belarusian Muslims were angered both by his backing of Lukashenka and his saying anything as an outsider.

           It should be noted that while Gaynutdin is perhaps the most prominent Russian Muslim leader, he is far from the only one. Other Muslim leaders in the Russian Federation, including Mufti Talgat Tajuddin of the Central MSD in Ufa have not made any public comments about the Belarusian situation.

            When Lukashenka began repressing protesters, Gaynutdin criticized both sides (; and when Lukashenka marked his birthday, the Moscow mufti sent another message of congratulations (, further outraging the Muslims of Belarus.

            Their two leaders, Mufti Abu-Bekir Shabanovich, who heads the Muslim Religious Union in Belarus, and Mufti Ali Voronovich, who is chairman of the MSD of the Republic of Belarus, did not congratulate Lukashenka on either occasion and instead sharply criticized his police actions against the Belarusians in the streets.

            The indigenous Muslim community in Belarus (the Belarusian Tatars) numbers only 7300 people, and the total number of Belarusians who identify as Muslims is 19,000. They are organized in 25 Muslim parishes (24 Sunni and one Shiite) (

            This should serve as a warning to the Kremlin that if it tries to absorb Belarus, it will face not only the opposition of the Belarusian nation but also the opposition of Belarus’ Muslims, who have demonstrated already that they aren’t ready to defer to Moscow politically or in religious terms.

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