06/18/2024, 10.02
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The dispute over the Islamic veil in Russia

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Moscow is debating the possible ban on wearing the Niqab proposed by deputies and opinion makers who insist on the need to curb extremist tendencies, recalling how in several Central Asian countries this measure has existed for some time. Mufti are divided among themselves, while some members of United Russia are also against it, fearing repercussions in relations with the Islamic world.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Discussions have been going on for weeks in Russia over the possible ban on wearing the Niqab, the Islamic veil that covers the entire face leaving only a slit for the eyes, often associated with the fundamentalist current of Wahabism. It was the president of the Human Rights Council, Valerij Fadeev, who once again proposed the ban, supported by various deputies and opinion leaders who insist on the need to curb extremist tendencies among Muslims throughout the country, even though the Ministry of the Interior has not provided any statistics to support these fears.

The issue of the Niqab, moreover, also divides the Muslim community in Russia, and religious leaders simply rule out restrictions on the Hijab, the bare-face veil. The Kprf communists have announced that the draft law on the ban, which envisages at least a 15 thousand rouble (150 euro) fine for any form of face covering, has already been sent to the government for official consideration. Fadeev said he was 'disturbed that so far the Niqab has not been banned in Russia', whereas in several Central Asian countries such a restriction has been in place for some time. The politicians intend to discuss the issue directly with the leaders of traditional Islam and regional authorities.

The Grand Mufti of Moscow, Ildar Aljautdinov, warns that a ban that is too direct could lead to tensions in society: "These attempts may appear to be a violation of the secular norms of law and the constitution, which guarantee all citizens of Russia the freedom to profess their religion, and to observe its canons". United Russia deputy in the Moscow Duma Ildar Gilmutdinov, head of the Federal National and Cultural Autonomy of the Tatars, spoke in favour of the Niqab, warning in turn that a ban could make Russia's relations with the entire Islamic world more difficult.

A member of the Human Rights Council, Kirill Kabanov, a long-standing supporter of the strict line on migrant issues, reacted to these statements by claiming that 'for traditional Russian Islam, this type of clothing is not at all natural', and that its recent spread is nothing more than 'a provocation by radicals, who have a hostile attitude towards us and our country, and are alien to our traditions and our world'. He, too, recalled that in Central Asia the Niqab and even the Paranja, the veil that completely covers women's bodies, is not allowed, and Kprf deputy Mikhail Matveev believes that 'first of all we need an official pronouncement from religious leaders on what clothes are appropriate for Muslims in Russia'.

Some recalled a speech by President Vladimir Putin in 2012, in which he argued that "the Hijab is not part of our culture, part of our traditional Islam, why should we take on traditions that are foreign to us?" Aljautdinov replied that 'if the decision of the ban really helps to protect the lives of our citizens, curbing the growth of Islamic extremism, then we will all support it, but this argument must be supported by real data'. It was the deputy interior minister, Andrej Khrapov, who responded to these appeals by noting that 'there are no clear signs of a radicalising trend in Islam in Russia'.

Other religious leaders, such as Kamil Samigullin of the Islamic administration of Tatarstan, also affirm that 'the ban is an attack on Muslims', while the Mufti of Volgograd, Kifakh Mokhamad, supports the proposal, recalling the recent attack on Krokus City Hall, pointing out that 'the Niqab is not a religious attribute, but only a habit of some Muslim societies, which has no reference to Sharia law'. Some propose to leave the decision 'in the hands of the governors, depending on regional traditions', and from many quarters it is reiterated that the key issue is not the (unproven) danger of radicalism, but rather to 'avoid the growth of Islamophobia' in Russia, which often becomes a form of repression of migrants.

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