News / Europe

Is Russia Radicalizing its Muslims?

Gulnara Faizulina, wife of imprisoned Tatar Muslim, Moscow, 24 May 2010
Gulnara Faizulina, wife of imprisoned Tatar Muslim, Moscow, 24 May 2010

Multimedia

Audio
Peter Fedynsky

The Russian Supreme Court on Tuesday hears an appeal of 12 Muslims from the republic of Tatarstan imprisoned on charges of attempting to overthrow the local government.  Russian human rights activists say the case represents an assault on freedom of religion that has the unintended effect of radicalizing Muslims in the Russian Federation.  

Farkhat Faizulin is one of 12 Muslims in Tatarstan imprisoned for attempting a violent overthrow of the republic's government.  He was also accused of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organization that seeks to unite all Muslim countries.  

Prosecutors presented no evidence of guns or explosives at the defendants' 2007 trial.  Instead, they pointed to confiscated Islamic literature, including that of Hizb ut-Tahrir.  Human-rights activists say prosecutors extrapolated violent intent from possession of that organization's literature.  The defendants deny all charges.  

Faizulin's wife, Gulnara Faizulina, told VOA the Supreme Court appeal revolves around procedural matters.

Faizulina says defendants were denied a jury trial and defense motions, witnesses were kept secret and defendants could not properly cross-examine them.

Speaking at a Moscow news conference, the director of Russia's Human Rights Institute, Valentin Gefter, said the issue at stake in the appeal is not the state's war against terrorism, but rather against independent ideas.

Gefter says the struggle in Russia in this specific instance and in the Caucasus is not against ideas or people who may even have radical ideas - certainly not violent ones, but rather it is a struggle against all those who may presumably think differently from local and federal authorities.

Alexei Malashenko, Islamic expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center, says there is no understanding or consistency in Russia as to what constitutes radical Islam.  He notes that theological disputes that are common to all religions.  He also cites cases when Russian civil authorities get involved in matters of faith.

Malashenko says one needs to think for a second that a judge - a civil authority - can provide instruction about proper or improper religious ritual.  Malashenko calls that nonsense, adding that a small-town mayor on the eve of some tragic events in [the Caucasus republic of] Kabardino-Balkaria posted a schedule when people may or may not attend services in a mosque.

Elena Ryabinina of the Human Rights Institute says the state's anti-terrorism operations are creating a large number of innocent victims who are convinced they cannot defend themselves through legal means.

Ryabinina says the more groups fall under the steamroller of repression, the greater the critical mass that emerges.  She says although the groups are completely different, they are united by two very powerful factors - a common faith and common trouble stemming from the repressive campaign.

Valentin Gefter says civil interference in matters of religion is turning Islam into a hero among ordinary people.  He notes a ruthless campaign against Islamic extremism in Chechnya has been accompanied by orders of what female college students should wear in class.  Gefter says that encourages resentment.

Gefter adds that Russian security agencies last year pressured the Russian parliament and President Dmitri Medvedev into eliminating the country's budding jury system in terrorism cases.

The human-rights activist says this has offered the possibility of not only manipulating, pressuring and perpetrating all kinds of outrages during an investigation, but also to get courts to deliver verdicts desired [by authorities].

Alexei Malashenko says there are no exact numbers on how many people are being radicalized by state's war on terror.  As he puts it, there are as many Islamic extremists as the authorities need to have at any given time - sometimes they need a lot, sometimes only a few.  He notes that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has said there are no more than 500 rebels remaining in his republic.  He later told his security forces virtually every Chechen family has a rebel, which would put the number in the many thousands.  

Gulnara Faizulina says she does not expect the Russian Supreme Court to rule favorably in her husband's case.  A decision should take about three weeks.  He has already served three-and-one-half years of a four-and-one-half year term.  He could have served a maximum of 20.  She notes all of the defendants got less than the minimum 10-year sentence, which she sees as indirect acknowledgment by authorities that they could not prove their case.

If necessary, the defendants plan a further appeal at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs