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Russian mufti stands by statements

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A leader of Russia’s Muslim community refused to repudiate his statements equating Zionism to fascism.

Nafigullah Ashirov, co-chairman of the Russian Council of Muftis, at a news conference last month called Zionism a cancer and Israel a fascist state, causing a short-lived split between Russia’s largest Jewish and Muslim organizations.

Ashirov told the Interfax news service April 3 that the dust-up was provoked by the Federation of Jewish Communities, or FEOR, “those who paint everything in black and white.”

“I really do love the Jewish people, but I have a very negative attitude about the aggressive policies of the Israeli state,” he said.

FEOR asked the Council of Muftis to denounce Ashirov’s original statements. When the council remained silent, FEOR released a statement saying it intended to break off relations with the Islamic group. A meeting last week between the heads of both groups led to a public detente.

Russia’s Interreligious Council, other Jewish organizations and the Council of Muftis have chided Ashirov for his comments.

A report from the U.S. State Department released last month described a growing sense of anti-Zionism worldwide that has been conflated with and, to some extent, replaced traditional anti-Semitism.

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