Interview with the Mufti of Ukraine Sheikh Ahmed Tamim

Thu, 13.08.2015 16:55

Kiev/ Ukraine in Arabic/ Mufti Akhmed Tamim, the head of the Spiritual administration of Muslims of Ukraine, does not like to communicate with journalists. But this time we managed to talk about the conflict in Ukraine, the Ukrainian situation of Muslims in the world, the situation in the Donbas and Crimea. We offer our readers to know about the position of the DUMU from the horse's mouth.

— If we turn to contemporary problems of Muslims, how can they be characterized? — The problem of Muslims is a problem of society. And the status of citizens, as in the whole state of society, is reflected in each. But our ambition is worthy and widely to represent Ukraine abroad so that others understand the correct order of things. Abroad I hear that in Kiev continue their public clashes and conflicts, both on the front. Submission reigns bad. Under such conditions, no one will want to come and do something here. This has an impact on investment and on the economy and social relations. Therefore one of the main problems is the negative propaganda, because alternative propaganda is very weak.

— What you, as a Muslim, I can say about the perception of Ukraine abroad? — About Ukraine at the level of the media abroad is very little informed. I was in America in the delegation of different faiths. Us and the Americans, and the Ukrainian Diaspora said that they have no objective information about Ukraine. We were in Brussels, and then in Berlin — everyone recognizes that information is very lacking. And even those with whom I spoke, afraid to come to Kiev. I was in some CIS countries — there is the same idea. Before these events, few people knew about Ukraine for 24 years. Few people knew of it as a separate country and therefore the Islamic world, mostly still clearly associating us with Russia. We always go to meetings with the national flag, and it's our aspiration is to be recalled that Russia and Ukraine is a different country. We do not interfere in the political relations, but we act as representatives of the Ukrainian state and are trying to raise the profile of Ukraine. I was able to do in Egypt when we were accepted at the highest level as representatives of Ukraine, allocated 45 minutes of live broadcast on national TV. Then we had the opportunity to speak as about the country and about Muslims in the state.

— You mentioned that they were working on reconciliation and the settlement of the situation in Ukraine. In what way exactly? — We as Muslims stand for justice and for trying to solve problems peacefully. The basis of the conflict that were international guarantees for Ukraine and its sovereignty. But a lot depends on us as citizens of Ukraine. Until recently it was difficult to see a unified state policy in which we could consistently and effectively work. As for the current situation, we are not policy and cannot directly influence the decision of the conflict. But as a religious organization we are trying to contact the clergy of the various countries and to talk about our position. For example, at the end of June I was in Berlin with all faiths at a meeting with religious leaders and representatives of the authorities in Germany, where we, as a single organism, has stated our position. In the framework of all-Ukrainian Council of Churches and religious organizations (AUCCRO) we have a full understanding of how to act. Also, together with representatives of other denominations of Ukraine, I was in a meeting in Oslo in September 2014, where we talked with representatives of Russian religious organizations. We wanted them to know the truth about the real situation in Ukraine.— What was the reaction of the Russian delegation? — They are now at least familiar with it. If you have never heard of us, we could now see directly and not read somewhere. Especially important was the fact that in the delegation were representatives of the AUCCRO religious organizations of Donbass, who themselves became victims of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, which killed relatives. As a result of this meeting, the attitude of the Russians was better, and we agreed on further development of the dialogue. Let me emphasize that we have not acted separately. We present our position and collectively it was our decision from the beginning. We are not trying to exploit the situation and circumstances for their own PR and to show themselves as those who play a unique role that we are heroes of Ukraine. Anyone who wants to understand, he understands. And we are not weak, to make excuses and someone to prove something.

— After the events in Crimea, many Muslims moved to other cities, in particular in Lviv and Kyiv. Did they approach you for help? You have developed certain strategies support them? — There are other organizations that purposefully engaged in the assistance to IDPs, so we communicate mostly through them. But when someone speaks to us directly, we are trying to help within our means, because we, primarily, a religious organization and engaged in religious questions. And by helping, we are not trying and not set myself the task of using someone else's plight to raise their image.

— During the Maidan, some media wrote about Your neutral position when You did not Express support for or opposition against the revolution. Later You were blamed for causing the Tauride muftiat in Crimea. What would they say? — For many years we work with a variety of media, know their editorial policy, the approach to news coverage and the presentation of information. The media, who correctly we were asked, we answered, and if someone did not hear what I wanted, and did his own interpretations of our position — we do not control them and their materials do not respond. Many used the Maidan for their own purposes, and it is no secret. But this is not our approach. We do not give political guidance to our members, and everyone did what you thought was right. As in other religions, people have different understanding of the situation, different political views. And we, as spiritual administration, in any situation we encourage them to behave responsibly. But in any case, all they care about Ukraine and want to live in a civilized country. I don't have to prove that I am a patriot. Who communicate with us, he knows who we are. But we came to the podium — no. On the Maidan there were also Muslims, but as the Chairman of the DUMA I performed in the framework of Council of churches.

— What is the nature of the relationship of religious organizations with the state You find most acceptable? How is this in principle would have to be? — We are against the religious factor was used in politics. Maybe some kind of confession shows how much she needed power, but it is temporary. To preserve the unity of the people and direct it into a single channel, politics and the state must demonstrate an overall strategy. Once everyone has decided that Ukraine is United and it's cosmopolitan, where each takes its rightful place, the state ought to be in a race towards all. It also stands to and from the state is not waiting for the next election season, someone to contact, and there were strict rules of the relationship. The same applies to democracy and freedom, we must understand where the line is where it ends, to avoid problems in the West, where the extremists have found political asylum under the pretext of freedom of expression, and now political leaders are considering how to prevent the development of a network of radicals.

— Do You feel the change of attitude towards the Muslims of Ukraine after the events in the West after the terrorist attacks? I feel that society differently could perceive Islam? — Stereotypes about Islam and prejudice against Muslims was before these events. Of course, after a series of spectacular attacks these fears intensified. But on the other hand, these events have caused many people desire to understand what Islam really is. Who wants to know the truth, he eventually realizes that between our religion and terrorism have nothing in common. As for relations with Muslims in Ukraine by the state DUMA as an organization was formed long before these events. We worked for many years as the authorities and public opinion and other faiths. And it's not allowed those who wanted to take a moment to incite hostility towards Islam. Therefore, we can say that the state's attitude to the Ukrainian Muslims these events almost no effect — as we worked, and work.

— Previously, an attempt was made to create a United Council of Muslims. But then You didn't join the organization that is now not functioning. Why did he make such a decision? — In our view, this "Council" was not created to solve the problems of Muslims, and in the interests of individual organizations and people using the issue of the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). We know its members, and saw under this Council was artificially re-registered as a "spiritual administration" — without the media, without any previous activity with the same name as ours. Although these organizations are separate legal entities, but they all belong to one direction and have common interests. Unfortunately, this Council was created with the assistance of certain officers and was used by the authority of the state, but a positive result was not achieved.

— And now the issue of Hajj? — Currently, the organization of the Hajj is a matter of inter-state relations. We have appealed to the foreign Ministry about this, but the answer have not received.

But your Muslims also go on a pilgrimage? — Because centralized organization of the Hajj now there, each looking for any other possibilities. Last year, the Ukrainian quota distributed, the mufti of Crimea (on behalf of the Council). He sent the Ukrainian group via Moscow, in fact, gave this quota Russia. Images are of Ukrainian pilgrims brought with him a gift not Jemilev, Chubarov and, as the representative of the Russian authorities in Crimea — it also shows what happens. But when AUCCRO now you actually only represent the Muslims of Ukraine, and then you can take the lead on this issue. — As for the AUCCRO and there, nothing has changed. Who both worked, and works.

— How can You comment on the activities of the Tauride muftiat in Crimea? In the Crimea we have supporters on the religious belief and position on extremist movements. As for political issues, among the Crimean Tatars had different opinions and they separated. And our spiritual management to the activities of the Tauride muftiat had and has nothing, and we are not responsible for their decision. Because our basic attitude is not to use religion for political purposes. But even those who wanted to register Tavrian Muftiate as a legal entity in accordance with the Russian legislation and are unable to register. In this case, and Alraid, and SAMK no problems registered as a Russian organization. This is also cause for reflection to those who accuse us in the Pro-Russian position. Why not give the registration? — This question not to us. But it gives an idea what is going on there. And we see that those Ukrainian organizations in Crimea, which used to work with Russia to continue its work as a Russian. While others are still not registered. We are engaged in religion, not allowed to use us in politics. And those who alone has made some steps, as individuals, nobody is and nobody ever got a job from us. And we also have problems, because we have the room in the Crimea is the branch of Islamic University. What to do with it? We have an office in Donetsk, what to do with it? The DUMU is now not functioning either in Crimea or the Donbass. Some Muslims moved here, some in Kherson region, and some people left or went to their relatives outside of Ukraine.

— If from the current position to analyze the Maidan, the situation in Crimea and in Eastern Ukraine, how would You rate this trend? What role has religion played in these processes? It is obvious that the impact was, the question is, which one? Is a popular movement, not a religious one. The people of each as he could, as many did: the volunteers who travelled to the ATO, there are those who collect assistance. We have those who can only prayers to read. Some of our staff went to the Maidan, but officially, as an organization representing Muslims, the DUMA worked in the framework of Council of churches, and all are very aware of our position. We also regularly did the meeting with the representatives of national minorities and diasporas to maintain unity and work together. There are different opinions, but there is a common denominator that unites us — Ukraine one for all, and we live here as citizens of this state, and not as visitors.

— Do You see the religious component of the conflict? — Since we are the minority, then in some ways we were not involved and we are not always invited. When there is an urgent Christian issues then they solve them among themselves. When they know we need that invite. And we understand that. We are not afraid of anyone. This does not mean that we have no patriotism. You just can't give someone use a point of confrontation. We will not allow anyone to use the Islamic factor for the division of Ukraine. Such attempts were, I know, and this can be done very easily, especially considering that in the Crimea and in the Donbas many Muslims. We think about the future, to keep the peace and smooth relationship with different cultures. When developing a healthy dialogue and confessions with the authorities see the importance of our role, we removed a lot of questions.

Now, few people have an idea about Islam or the existence of Muslims in Ukraine. Sometimes I'm afraid to take any decision. Here the influence of the mentality and traditions. Time it heals, so we say that a healthy move on our part is the development of dialogue with all, which guarantees the solution to many problems. The important thing now is to keep Ukraine. She's a victim, because everyone looks at their interest outside the state and helping within own benefit. And there are patriots who want freedom, but the time is still wrong. So I wish everything was settled peacefully and built a healthy state.

Asked Tatiana Kalenichenko 



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