Headlines 25 December, 2009
WAVE OF CLERGY KILLINGS IN RUSSIA
Twenty-six Orthodox priests murdered since 1990, including 39-year-old Alexander Filippov on Tuesday
23/12/2009- The second murder of a Russian priest in as many months has prompted a call by the Orthodox Church for Russians to think about their country's spiritual and moral condition. The killings follow more violence this year directed against Muslim clerics in Russia's troubled Caucasus region. Tuesday's shooting death of 39-year-old priest Alexander Filippov is alleged to be the act of two intoxicated men in the village of Satino-Russkoye near Moscow. His widow is quoted as saying Filippov had reproached the suspects for relieving themselves at the entrance of their apartment building. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, called Filippov a bright and clean-living individual who leaves behind three daughters. Kirill says the priest was killed because he was not indifferent to disgusting human behavior and took a principled stand against it in accordance with his calling. The Interfax News Agency says a total of 26 Orthodox priests have been murdered in Russia since 1990. Many others have been assaulted. They include Vitaly Zubkov, who was kicked and beaten last month, just days after the murder of his friend, Father Daniil Sysoyev in Moscow. Sysoyev had received death threats for his outspoken criticism of Islam and attempts to convert Muslims to Christianity. News reports quote Orthodox Church Spokesman Vladimir Legoida as saying that recent events show Russians must think of the spiritual and moral situation they live in.
The head of the Religion and Law Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Roman Lunkin, told VOA many Russians call themselves Orthodox Christians but have no idea about the obligations required by organized religion. He says Russian spiritual leaders themselves often set the wrong example by mixing church-state relations. Lunkin says church leaders send a signal that to call oneself an Orthodox, it is enough to maintain close ties with the state or government officials and to participate in official ceremonies. He says this reveals an absence of true faith, adding that priests often begin with the construction of a church building, instead of first organizing a community of believers. Lunkin says communism stripped many Russians of religious faith, and with it any respect for priests and churches. Lunkin recalls an incident several years ago when a priest began building a church in the Ivanovo region north of Moscow and arrived one morning to find that local residents had dismantled the structure for its bricks because there was no organized community in that village and no one knew what Orthodoxy was. He adds that local hooligans who killed the priest considered themselves to be Orthodox.
Russia's Islamic community has also been rocked this year by several high-profile killings of Muslim clerics in the Caucasus. They include Akhmed Tagayev, deputy mufti of Dagestan, and Ismail Bostanov, rector of the Islamic Institute in the southern Karachai-Cherkessia region. Some observers link those murders to Islamic militants who are fighting pro-Kremlin authorities. The deputy head of Russia's Mufti Council, Damir Khazrat Gizatullin rejects any connection. He told VOA he attributes the violence to incivility throughout Russia stemming from 70 years of communist rule. Gizatullin says people in Russia do not know how to listen to one another, to give others the right away on the road, or to understand the foundations of spirituality and religion. This, he concludes, leads to current situation, which follows 70 years of alienation from the spiritual roots and traditions of Russia. He says people now fail to realize that members of the clergy and all others are protected by the Almighty and by the law. He says Communists also made the mistake of focusing on the construction of buildings at the expense of community. Gizatullin says Soviet authorities wanted to construct more living space for people, but toilets and other communal structures were forgotten. He says there was no time, no energy, and no resources for such things, and now Russia is reaping those elements of Soviet life. Murders of prominent Russians are not limited to the clergy. Investigative journalists and political activists have also been victims. Most of the killers remain at large.
© VoA News
ISLAMOPHOBIC ATTACKS LARGELY IGNORED IN UK
19/12/2009- Islamophobic attacks in Britain will continue to rise until there is a wholsesale change in attitudes, including new legislation against religious hatred, according to the editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed Versi. “It will get worse unless something serious is done to curb this,” warned Versi, who has been reporting incidents of attacks and abuse against Muslims for more than 20 years and presented many papers at conferences on the issue. “Lack of legislation is the problem - we have only small number of cases of racism and anti-Semitism because they are protected by laws and are outlawed,” he said. In an interview with IRNA, he also suggested that other measures were needed to help stem the waves on attacks on Muslims, including in education to make national curriculums more inclusive and “not Eurocentric” and changes in languages by the media and politicians. The Muslims News has been recently reporting increasing incidents of Islamophobic attacks in Britain, reaching up to 10 cases or so a month. “Attacks include arson attacks on mosques, Islamic institutions (like charities). We have also reported violence against students on campuses or near campuses. Muslim women in the hijab or niqab have been attacked - including removing their head scarves or niqab,” Versi said. He said that there was also much Islamophobic verbal abuse, demonising Muslims with such chants as “Osama bin Ladin;” “You Pakis go home” “Terrorists” and the like. Even Muslim cemeteries and graves had been vandalised, he added.
Despite the scale of attacks and abuse, there are very few reports on the issue by national media. The Muslim News editor said that even the police refuse to acknowledge many of the cases were religious hate attacks and are left underreported. Often protection is also not available, he said. He believed that one of the reasons behind the growing incidence was the way the media reports on the domestic and international terrorism issues by alleging Islam is the problems. “Images of mosques, women in the hijab and niqab are shown after terrorist attacks or after suspected terrorists are arrested,” Versi said. “Huge coverage is given when Muslims are arrested under anti terror laws but when most of them are released, very little is reported,” he said. Earlier this year, The Muslim News celebrated its 20th anniversary as the leading campaigning newspaper for Britain’s two million Muslim community. The monthly, the largest circulating in the ethnic media, has a readership of over 140,000, reaching the most diverse communities. Its website is updated daily and receives up to 1.5 million hits a month. Versi, who also covers international events, told IRNA that Islamophobia was not just in the UK but widespread in Europe and blamed the rise as leading to the recent Swiss ban on the building of minarets. The main perpetrators of the attacks were by “extremist-leaning people” but some of the crimes are being committed by ordinary citizens, he said. He also cast the blame on xenophobia and ignorance as well as the media and politicians.
“Recent anti-Islam groups have sprung up - led by white extremists who mimic the language already used by politicians and media against Islam and Muslims - like - 'we are against extremists/fundamental Muslims' 'we are against Shariah laws' etc.” In the current climate, Versi remained very pessimistic about the future, but he also believed that more positive stories about Muslims would help. To this end, he took a proactive lead in raising the profile of Muslims with the launch in 2000 of the Muslim News Awards for Excellence, which has become annual celebration of unsung Muslim achievement attended by eminent guests such as the prime minister. “We wanted to do something that would help the community and we found that there was hardly any acknowledgement of British Muslim contributions to society,” he said.
© The Muslim News