Mufti Charges Anti-semitism As Russians Gear Up for Election

The leader of Moscow’s Muslim community has charged that the Russian Orthodox Church is riddled with anti-Semitism.

Mufti Ravil Gainutdin made the charge that the church is “infected with anti- Semitism” in an interview with Evreyskaya Gazeta, Moscow’s bi-weekly Jewish newspaper.

The mufti also accused the charge of ignoring both Muslim and Jewish interests in Russia.

“Russian Muslims are very worried that the Orthodox establishment seeks to maintain its ruling position in society while ignoring the fact that Russia is a multi-ethnic state with vast non-Christian minorities,” said the mufti, who serves as spiritual leader for the Muslim communities in Moscow and Central Russia.

The Muslim community of Greater Moscow numbers about 1.2 million. Other provinces within the Russian federation – such as Tatarstan, Dagestan and Chechnya – are predominantly populated by Muslims.

The mufti’s comments come as Russia prepares for parliamentary elections in December.

With the elections’ imminent approach, Muslim participation in Russia’s political life became the subject of intense debate after an Islamic political group, the Muslim Union of Russia, declared it would run its own slate rather than back existing parties.

The idea of an organized Islamic political bloc riled the Russian Orthodox Patriarch, Alexei II, who warned Muslim leaders that if they persisted in organizing a denomination-based political bloc, Orthodox Christians would do the same.

But Muslim religious and political leaders countered that they were simply trying to protect the interests of their constituents, who they said lacked representation in the Russian government.

The Islamic leaders denied that their political bloc has any religious connection.

The Muslim Union of Russia is headed by Akhmet Khalitov, a former aide to Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and one of the founders of the Russian Liberal Democratic Party, which Zhirinovsky heads.

Because of Khalitov’s ties to Zhirinovsky, the Muslim Union is believed to be an offspring of Russian nationalist circles.

In contrast to the Islamic community, Jews and other religious and ethnic minorities are not seeking separate representation in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

The Congress of Ethnic Unions of Russia, a movement that included several different ethnic groups, dissolved this summer and allowed its members to throw their support behind already existing Russian political parties.

The Jewish and Ukrainian sections of the congress decided to join Russia’s Choice Party, headed by former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar.

In return, Moscow Jewish activist and businessman Valery Engel will run on that party’s slate as a representative of Eastern Siberia.

Other ethnic – including Koreans, Armenians and Kurds – threw their support behind the Inter-Ethnic Union, a bloc backing the administration of President Boris Yeltsin.

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