100,000 Muslims Have Fled Russian-Occupied Regions Of Ukraine – OpEd


Prior to Vladimir Putin’s Anschluss of Crimea and aggression in the Donbass, there were only a few thousand Muslims in the central part of Ukraine, but now, some 100,000 of the faithful have fled there from Russian occupied areas, dramatically increasing the size of that community in areas with little experience with Islam.

Sheikh Said Ismagilov, the mufti of the Kyiv-based Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of Ukraine, told the QHA news agency that “100,000 Muslims from Crimea and the Donbass have moved to the territory under the control of the Ukrainian authorities” (qha.com.ua/ru/obschestvo/v-ukraine-sto-tisyach-pereselentsevmusulman-iz-krima-i-donbassa/167532/).

These people need assistance because they lack resources on their own, because “in Ukraine there are not very many wealthy Muslims,” and because foreigners and foreign Muslim organizations have not done anything to help. His mosques, the sheikh said, collect food and clothing, support orphanages, and do what little they can on their own.

He said that his MSD had not been in contact with the MSD in Crimea since the Russian Anschluss. “We know that they are harshly controlled by the authorities and that definite rules have been imposed on their functioning. Therefore we do not have any ties” with the Crimean muftiate lest such contacts things worse for the Muslims of Crimea.

Asked whether he would support the establishment of other Muslim organizations in Ukraine, including by Muslims from Russian-occupied Crimea, the mufti said that “they have the right to do so and we will not influence this process because we respect the choice and rights of our fellow believers and are happy to cooperate with any religious organizations of the Muslims of Crimea,” as long as they “support the national interests of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.”

Sheikh Ismagilov said that Ukrainians should not fall victim to those who demonize Muslims by claiming they are terrorists. There are terrorists in Ukraine, but they are supporting Russian forces in Crimea and the Donbass – and those people are not followers of Islam.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

One thought on “100,000 Muslims Have Fled Russian-Occupied Regions Of Ukraine – OpEd

  • November 10, 2016 at 8:18 am

    Hi Paul, are you a spokesman for Sheikh Said Ismagilov, uncritically parroting his fantasies? It sounds like you are… Not that anything’s wrong with that, of course.


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