Crimean Demonstration Against “Islamic Extremism”

28.09.2001, 16:36
Hundreds demonstrated in Symferopol on 19 September 2001, urging political leaders and other citizens to defend the Christians of Crimea from the threat of worldwide and local Islamic extremism. The demonstration occurred against the backdrop of the recent terrorism in the United States of America and the Parliament of Crimea’s decision to give a Muslim community land near Symferopol on which to build a new mosque.

Demonstrators took to the streets of Symferopol, the capital city of southern Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, an autonomous republic within the country. A civic organization “In Defense of Holy Dormition Monastery in Bakhchyserai (Crimea)” was at the same time meeting in the city parliament building. The group held a meeting to organize a “Way of the Cross” to support Orthodoxy in Crimea. Some of the demonstrators were wearing the military uniform of members of the brotherhoods of the Russian Orthodox Church. But Metropolitan Lazar of Symferopol and Crimea (Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate) distanced himself from the action. The parliament of the Crimean republic decided on that same day to give the Muslim “Adzhybei” Community a plot of land outside of Symferopol on which to build a new mosque. A few days prior to the demonstration, Leonid Hrach, leader of the Communist Party in Crimean, announced that Muslims were responsible for the recent attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. He claimed that sad predictions about conflicts between the Islamic and Christian worlds are coming true. He did not at this time mention the Medzhlis, the representative organ of the Crimean Tatar nation. But earlier in his presentation he stated that the Medzhlis supported extremism and national-radicalism. Zakyr Kurtnezyrov, representative of the Mufti of Muslims in Crimea, insisted on his people’s peaceful intentions: “Muslims are a minority in Crimea. And to think that Muslims pose some threat to Crimea is unbelievable and unrealistic. Some people are using the terrorism in America for their own political goals. They are profiting from the ‘Muslim threat.’” The number of Muslims in Ukraine is not exactly known and various sources give figures from 1 to 3 million. But by far Ukraine’s largest Muslim community is in Crimea, with about 300 thousand. Stalin deported most of the Muslim Crimean Tatars from their ancestral homeland in the 1940s. They have been returning since Ukraine gained its independence in 1991. Mr. Kurtnezyrov added that “Islam is against such criminals [terrorists]. Allah gives life and only he has the right to take it. To kill other people is a big, big sin in Islam. And the Koran speaks of this. The Spiritual Direction of Muslims in Crimea has already condemned the terrorism in the USA and expressed its condolences to the American people.” Information for this article was taken from the Ukrainian-language website,