Staunton, March 17 – Despite its continuing repression of the Crimean Tatars in their Ukrainian peninsula homeland, Moscow has boldly asked Saudi Arabia to give Russia additional slots for this year’s haj to Mecca because of members of the Russian Haj Mission said are “about 400,000” Muslims there.
Last year, ignoring the rules the Saudi authorities responsible for the holy places of Islam have laid down, Moscow not only sent more than its total quota on the haj as it has done before but also included 150 Muslims from then newly-occupied Crimea, another violation of Saudi rules (ansar.ru/world/2015/03/16/58413).
One hopes that the Saudis will not give in to Russian pressure on this point, especially since most of the countries in the Muslim world play by the rules, keep within the Saudi-established quotas, and force many of the faithful to wait years or even decades for a chance to go to Mecca.
But there are two additional reasons why it would be unfortunate if the Saudis gave way. On the one hand, it almost certainly would become the occasion for additional falsifications of the upcoming Crimean census, given that there is a real fight between the Russian occupier who want to keep the number of Crimean Tatars down and Moscow, which in this instance at least, wants their numbers to be higher.
And on the other, allowing Moscow to get its way would reinforce the current Russian tendency to assume that it is appropriate in the 21st century to act as if it were still the 17th when imperial powers divided things up and repressed so many peoples around the world, a tendency that Refat Chubarov has decried in a new interview (slon.ru/posts/49348).
Perhaps the best comment about this and other forms of Russian high-handedness in Crimea is offered by Ayder Muzhdavayev in a comment on Ekho Moskvy. Noting that the occupiers will close the only tri-lingual TV channel in Crimea on April 1 and continue to harass Crimean Tatars in other ways as well, he asks the following question:
“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, my Russia, calling yourself a great country to so mistreat a small and peaceful people? Have you taken Hitler as your model? My God, what a shame this all is” (echo.msk.ru/blog/aiderm/1512496-echo/).