Important roles for Arab and Muslim students.. The Muslims of Ukraine are consolidating their religious and national identity
Kiev- In the Ukrainian capital, “Kiev”, it was announced the establishment of the “Muslim Council of Ukraine”, to be a “universal platform” for various institutions, associations and bodies of an Islamic nature in the country, according to those in charge of the “foundation initiative”.
In a press conference with the official UkrInform agency, the initiators, who are representatives of active Islamic institutions, talked about changes and transformations that imposed themselves on the nature of Islamic presence and action in Ukraine, over the 30 years since independence in 1991.
From reviving identity to consolidating it
Perhaps one of the most prominent of these “transformations”, which were mentioned in the conference, is the transition of Islamic presence and action from the stage of reviving identity to its consolidation.
The head of the Union of Social Organizations (the pioneer) – Siran Arifov – says that the return of Muslims to their religion, especially after decades of Soviet rule that deprived them of religion and its teachings, was a priority in the beginning, until the middle of the last decade.
He explained to Al Jazeera Net that most cultural activities and charitable relief works were directed in the nineties towards reviving identity and pushing towards pride in it, by achieving the meanings of mercy, solidarity and Islamic brotherhood.
Today, according to Arifov, “work is focused on the educational aspect of schools and regular educational institutions that consolidate and fortify the Ukrainian Islamic identity, and activate their roles in the Muslim community and in society as a whole.”
From students to locals
The chief of the “Raed” attributes a large part of this transformation to the roles played by Arab and Muslim students in the beginning, until the spread of “awareness” among the local Muslims, the indigenous population of the country.
He says, “I am a Crimean Tatar, and in fact I do not know a Tatar house that Muslim students did not enter, with the aim of reminding and reviving the identity after it had melted and was almost obliterated, and they extended a helping hand, no matter how symbolic.”
Arifov, 42, gives an example of this, saying, “I remember well when I was young, and I used to mock their calls and their religious terminology, but today, and many others, we appreciate these student preachers for their patience and efforts, and their merit in reviving Islam in our souls, and our remaining Muslims.”
Today, Arifov heads the Union of “Al-Raed”, the largest institution concerned with Muslim affairs in Ukraine, and says, “We are well aware that the concern of introducing and defending Islam and serving Muslims is upon us, the indigenous people of the country.”
Before Russia occupied the Crimea and the separatists took control of large parts of the Donbass, the number of Muslims was estimated at about 2 million people out of about 42 million, while their numbers today are estimated at about one million, as the president distributed them on the lands of Crimea and Donbass (the Crimean Tatars and Kazan Tatars). .
From “terrorists” to “patriots”
The conference touched upon a stage in which Ukrainian Muslims suffered from accusations of extremism and terrorism, after the events of September 11 in the United States, and later became a symbol of patriotism, after the latest local 2014 events.
In an interview with Al Jazeera Net, Adviser to the Ukrainian Minister of Culture Ihor Kozlovsky, who is also an expert in matters of religion, said, “I cannot say that the manifestations of Islamophobia were great in Ukraine, and it may not be compared to what it is in other countries, but it is certain that the general view has changed negatively.” towards Muslims, because of the uproar caused by the events in New York in 2001, and the subsequent war against al-Qaeda.”
In a related context, Oleg Yarosh, head of the Department of “History of Eastern Philosophies” at the National Academy of Sciences, says, “We must admit that the Tatars rejected the occupation of Crimea, and later bore them with the consequences of this position, and then Muslims participated alongside others in fighting the pro-Russian and Russian militants on all fronts of the East. Factors that radically changed the society’s view of Islam and Muslims, and revealed the truth of their loyalty and love for religion and the homeland together.
Yarosh mentioned examples of names he saw as Ukrainian “symbols”, such as Sheikh Saeed Ismailov, the mufti of the religious administration of the Muslims of Ukraine “Ummah”, who was active against Russian aggression, and was a “spiritual guide” in the ranks of Muslim soldiers, and Amina Akiva, the activist who fought alongside her husband against separatists. Al-Sharq and was martyred in an assassination operation near “Kiev” in October 2017.
He continued, “I can say without exaggeration that the factor of religious freedom in Ukraine helps Muslims to play positive roles in society, and I mention here, quoting Arabic books, the terms (justice) and (social justice) which, if available, according to the writers, Muslims left a great impact. in life and civilization.
The Muslims of Ukraine consider that women’s strong participation alongside men is a remarkable transformation in itself, especially since it has moved from traditional activity to specialization.
In this, the head of the “Ukrainian Muslim Union” Nayara Mamutova said that Islamic women’s work was almost absent in the nineties of the last century, due to the weakness of identity, and preoccupation with the concerns and burdens of study and family.
But little by little – Mamutova adds to Al Jazeera Net – this work has been institutionalized, through the presence of women’s sections in associations concerned with family affairs and women’s culture. Today, “we have dozens of independent women’s institutions in various cities, and specialized scientific and human rights institutions, through which we dialogue with the state and address women and society on a larger scale.”
In this context, she mentioned how Ukrainian Muslim women were able to establish the right to photograph the headscarf for official documents in January 2019, depending on their institutions and the judiciary.
Charter of the Muslims of Ukraine
The participants in the founding conference view the “Pact of Muslims of Ukraine” as a comprehensive basis for unity under the “Council of Muslims of Ukraine”, and as a reference that supports joint action and achieves citizenship.
Pavlo Fedosov, director of the Islamic Cultural Center in the city of Dnipro, says that the charter signed in 2016 drew a road map that transcends the obstacles of difference between the components of the Muslim community in Ukraine, “and defined religious and national principles, so that we are not subject to any internal or external influence, and for Muslims to practice Citizenship by right, by knowing rights and performing duties.
Present and future challenges
In their foresight for the future, the founders of the Council of Muslims of Ukraine touch upon the challenges that they believe were, are, and will remain, even if they eased or intensified from time to time.
Siran Arifov says, “The condition of our nation is reflected in us, and we are affected by the evil that affects many Muslims around the world, such as distortion, attempts to exclude, and the like.”
And he continues, “Unfortunately, the external challenge may be more difficult for us than the traditional and local challenges, and even from the war in which the Muslims of Ukraine lost dozens of educational and specialized centers and institutions, and pushed many of them to emigrate, or led to their arrest.”