Russian Muslim community refutes U. S. Department of State report on religious freedom in Russia

The Russian Muslim community does not share the view of the authors of U. S. Department of State report on religious freedom in Russia.

"Nobody in Russia stops law abiding citizens from worshipping freely," the First Deputy Chairman of the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims, Mufti of Moscow and Russian Central Region Albir Krganov told Interfax on Tuesday.

He was commenting on the annual report by the U.S. State Department on the freedom of religious expression. In it, the authors claim that while the Russian Constitution guarantees religious freedom, other laws and political practices restrict it.

The most serious restrictions involve the accusations of extremism against small religions, attempts to thwart their activities and self-expression and attempts to deny them registrations, inhibiting access to places of worship, denying entry visas to religious visitors and arrests of representatives of religious organizations, said the report's authors, adding that most arrests were made against Muslims and Jehovah's Witnesses.

"Decent Muslims are not being persecuted in our country," Krganov said.

"Sometimes Muslims are invited to testify to police, they can be treated as witnesses or suspects. But once their innocence is proved, they are released. There was a case when I was invited to the police, too. It is a normal practice of law enforcement authorities, one should not make a problem out of it," the mufti said

Sometimes, "organizational issues arise, for example, land allocation for mosques, but they get resolved," he said.

"The problem here is not the authorities are preventing Muslims from worshipping, the problem is that religion had been banned for 70 years in our country, we are only learning to liaise with the state," the mufti said.

As for sects, there is such a notion as "spiritual safety," Krganov said.

"There are destructive religious organizations which pose danger. It is strange that the U.S. acknowledges that in its domestic policy but deprives other countries of this right. And for the State Department's annual reports to be more objective, I would like the report's authors to consult more with the traditional religious communities which have for centuries existed in Russia and unite the majority of believers," Krganov said.

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