05/30/2011, 00.00
RUSSIA - ISLAM

Closure of an important Islamic centre. Moscow seeks control of Islam

Nina Achmatova
The Supreme Court ordered the Centre linked to the Council of muftis, to cease all activities. According to analysts and members of the Centre, the Kremlin wants to bring the Muslim community under the control of a single organization loyal to the state.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – According to analysts administrative irregularities, but also political motives are behind the Supreme Court decision to close, a popular Islamic organization with offices throughout Russia last week. They also maintain that the closure of the Centre for Islamic culture is linked to the Kremlin's desire to bring the large Muslim community in the country under the control of a single organisation loyal to the state.

On 25 May, the Supreme Court upheld the Ministry of Justice decision to close the center for "multiple violations of financial regulations." "This is a bureaucratic order given by people who want a puppet representatives for Muslims," the leader and founder , Abdul-Wahid Niyazov, told Russian media. He explained how documentation submitted by the Ministry for Justice was obtained under pressure from the Security Service (FSB), the notorious Russian secret services. Niyazov added that several directors of the Centre resigned following threatening phone-call by the FSB. The intention now is to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Given the public arm of the Council of muftis - one of four organizations representing Russian Muslims - the Centre for Islamic Culture held exhibitions, press conferences, seminars and conferences with religious authorities. Its closure has been greeted positively by the 'rival' Muftis body of the whole of Russia, established last December with the active support of the Kremlin. According to the president of that organism, Mukhammedgali Khuzin, the Centre was also damaging to the community and interfaith dialogue, but he added no further explanation.

Alexander Soldatov, journalist, expert on religion columnist for the site portalcredo.ru, the central government did not appreciate the Centre’s initiative in organizing a mass prayer inside and outside the central mosque in Moscow in November on the feast of Eid al -Adha. "Immediately after that event - Soldatov said - the Kremlin was frightened and established the body of Muftis in direct competition with the Council." Also, the Council is the main promoter of the construction of new mosques in the capital - where there are four - to meet the needs of the growing Muslim community. But both the city administration, the federal government does not seem willing to give up, especially after clashes between ethnic Russian Christians and Caucasians Muslims which erupted in the city in December.
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