Belarusian Muslims in a political crisis

  • Belarus
  • 22.Sep ‘20
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The unceasing wave of street protests in Belarus has left its mark on the life of religious communities in this state. This led to a change in the exarch of the Russian Orthodox Church and a difficult situation with the Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, who was not allowed into the country from Poland.

And how did the Muslims of Belarus react to the events taking place in the country? The impetus for expressing their position was the statement of one Russian sheikh.

On August 10, unexpectedly for all the mufti of the Russian Muslim Spiritual Directorate, Ravil Gainutdin congratulated Alexander Lukashenko on his victory in the elections, stating that he respects Alexander Grigorievich “for his constant desire to build a state first of all, social and responsible for the economic well-being of its people, for a respectful and just attitude to the aspirations of believers of various religious traditions, for incredible steadfastness and dedication to their service,” and wishes Belarus “civil cohesion.” Many in Belarus took Gainutdin’s words as a call to recognize Lukashenko’s victory in the elections as a fait accompli. This caused a wave of indignation in the country, which prompted the Muslims to state their position.

On the same day in the evening with a statement  Abu-Bekir Shabanovich, Mufti of the Muslim Religious Association in the Republic of Belarus, spoke: “It is impossible to watch how bloodshed occurs, our compatriots suffer and die. No one in Belarus can but be concerned about the fate of hundreds of innocent people who have become hostages of the current situation. At this momentous moment in our history, in the name of God, full of mercy, love and peace, we appeal to all parties to the conflict to stop the violence.

The same position was expressed by the mufti of the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims in the Republic of Belarus Ali Voronovich: “We are following the situation in our country. Several people died and hundreds were injured. … On behalf of the Muslims of Belarus, we declare that Muslims and Muslim women oppose violence in any of its manifestations, regardless of who is the source of this violence and make a prayer to the Almighty to end all violence in our country.

As we can see, unlike the chairman of the Russian Muslim Spiritual Directorate, the Belarusian Muslims did not hurriedly congratulate Lukashenko (his name is not mentioned anywhere in the statements of both muftis), and there is a certain reason for this: the situation in Belarus remains uncertain to this day, and therefore Muslims in avoiding the consequences now is best to take a neutral stance. But despite this prudent neutrality, both muftis condemn the violence, which comes predominantly from Belarusian security officials loyal to Lukashenka. This is an important nuance.

Be that as it may, the situation in fraternal Belarus remains extremely difficult and uncertain. Probably, Russian religious leaders should refrain from expressing sympathy and not making public statements with which they first of all substitute their fellow believers. At least until the most devastating political crisis in the entire post-Soviet era ends in Belarus.

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