Aider ISMAILOV: “Muslims should have reacted according to the traditional Crimean Tatar folk wisdom: ‘Throw a stone at us, and we throw a loaf back’”
The Crimean Muslim information space is raging with debate around Innocence of Muslims, the video rotated by some Arab TV channels and spread via YouTube. However, while the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Crimea (DUMK, or the Muftiate) faced the provocation with calm and patience, radical religious groups went berserk.
Thus, Hizb ut-Tahrir, one of the pan-Islamic associations (not registered in Ukraine and, moreover, banned in most countries, and thus forced to illegal activities), raised Crimean Muslims to join in protest rallies against “insults to Islam.” According to various assessments, from one to two thousand representatives of autonomous (from DUMK) Muslim communities, as well as those of Hizb ut-Tahrir rallied to protest against the US-made “video, offending Muslims,” and cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, circulated in some European media. Formally, the rally was organized by the religious community Davet, independent from DUMK. The rally had been announced on Facebook. Also, posters had been hung outside mosques, and invitations and leaflets had been spread in Crimean Tatar neighborhoods. Even before that, Hizb ut-Tahrir’s website had published an appeal, saying that “this was done by a group of Copts [Christians. – Author] in America, despised even by the Coptic community itself…” The appeal was signed by Osman Bakhach, Central Media Office Spokesman (London).
The fact that even Hizb ut-Tahrir, which does not enjoy any particular popularity among Crimean Tatars, was able to round up so many protesters at a first attempt, is yet another proof of the complexity and potential danger stemming from the Muslim-Christian relations. It shows that the smallest incident is enough to add fuel to the blazing fire of the Islamic world.
The rally was split in two parts, male and female, the latter mostly consisting of hijab-draped figures. Black and white flags, quotes from the Quran, and slogans calling for the rebuilding of caliphate (the spiritual foundations of Hizb ut-Tahrir), were seen above the crowd. The speakers argued that only caliphate, i.e., the global theocratic Islamic state, could effectively protect Muslims in their unequal confrontation with infidels, that is, with the Christian world.
The film itself was hardly worth such attention or publicity, but the crowd was agitated. The speakers went on about “smearing the Prophet Muhammad” and humiliation of Islam. According to them, the blame rests not only on the authors of Innocence of Muslims or the cartoons in European newspapers, but also with the countries involved, as well as with the leaders, politicians, and governments of those countries. They acquitted the extreme reaction of the Muslims who attacked American diplomatic missions, murdering the US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American citizens in Libya. The rally passed a resolution with an appeal to non-Islamic citizens of Western nations to stop their leaders and anti-Islamic actions.
Thus it became clear after the rally that it is Hizb ut-Tahrir that leads the radical wing of Ukraine’s Muslims, and in the light of the complicated global interfaith situation, its negative influence could increase. The Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Crimea had repeatedly drawn the Ukrainian government’s attention to the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Crimea, including dissemination of literature, explicitly calling to an armed confrontation with the government and its overthrow.
In this connection, the DUMK appeals to the Muslims, who sympathize with Hizb ut-Tahrir or are members of this organization, to calm down and come to their senses. The Muftiate says that, contrary to common sense, “today the Ukrainian government creates quite comfortable conditions for spreading ideas like those professed by Hizb ut-Tahrir.” However, a moment may come when everything will change. Even today, the calls of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s leaders qualify as criminal activity. “Are you prepared to sacrifice your lives and freedom for the sake of the Hizb leaders, who are hiding in Britain?” asks the Muftiate of Crimea.
The DUMK emphasizes that one of the reasons for the spread of “Hizb ut-Tahrir’s extremist ideology” is the fact that the level of religious education among Crimean Muslims is still quite low. But the key factor here is the absence of a visible defense and protection of the Crimean and Ukrainian communities from being affected by similar ruinous ideologies, which have already alerted the entire world.
The Muftiate of Crimean Muslims denounced mass unrest in a number of Arab countries that followed the rotation of Innocence of Muslims. “It is an express provocation, designed to urge Muslims worldwide to take dangerous, radical actions. Thus, a negative image of the Muslim is being created,” said Aider ISMAILOV, deputy Mufti of Crimean Muslims. “The actions that we have witnessed are clearly aimed at fomentation of hatred between the Islamic and non-Islamic world. The forces which in this case had aimed at provoking Muslims, have succeeded.”
According to Ismailov, now this provocation will “enable the ill-wishers to manipulate the society, using anti-Islamic stereotypes. If only Muslims had reacted to this according to the traditional Crimean Tatar folk wisdom: ‘Throw a stone at us, and we throw a loaf back,’ they would have only won.”
The DUMK stated that the Crimean Muslim’s spiritual leaders denounced Hizb ut-Tahrir’s rally. The representatives of the Muftiate have repeatedly urged the Ukrainian government to ban the movement, which they believe to be an extremist organization. Also, the leaders of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, together with the leaders of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Crimea, publicly appealed to Muslims to be tolerant and reasonable. At the same time, they denounced “the attempt to insult more than a billion Muslims, which was done by publishing fragments of an amateur video, showing a negative image of Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad.” However, the Crimean authorities would not oppose to Hizb ut-Tahrir’s rally, although the organization has no official registration.
The DUMK reports that Crimean experts are to create a research group which will evaluate the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir. The decision was passed by members of a roundtable “Hizb ut-Tahrir as a threat to Ukraine’s national security,” recently initiated by the DUMK in Simferopol. Among the participants were historians, political scientists, philosophers of the Tauric National University, lawyers, government representatives, and SBU officers. The scholars, present at the discussion, emphasized the growing radicalism of the Crimean society and proposed a single algorithm to prevent its negative consequences. Commenting on the prospect of banning Hizb ut-Tahrir on the grounds of calls for a coup d’etat, Dmytro Vorontsov, spokesman for the SBU, said that so far no such direct calls have been recorded. According to Vorontsov, Hizb ut-Tahrir literature will be examined by government experts.
The leaders of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People repeatedly remind their fellow citizens that Hizb ut-Tahrir is explicitly working against the participation of Crimean Tatars in the elections. They make it clear that they are opposed to voting at the polling stations. “We are being pulled into the election process in order to be represented in the government, whereas the bigger part of our achievements over the 20 years, following our repatriation to Crimea, were made without a single representative in any governmental body. It was after the decision on the necessity to be represented in government that the process of renewal of our rights has stalled, and we stopped in our tracks,” said an article in the newspaper Revival, an organ of the Crimean center of Hizb ut-Tahrir.