Staunton, June 6 – Said Ismagilov, the head of the Kyiv-based Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of Ukraine, said that Muslims in other countries should not come to Ukraine because those who do so will be fighting against a government that has treated the Islamic community well and continues to do so.
“Everything here was fine [in Ukraine before Moscow intervened]. You can’t imagine how good things were. We didn’t realize either, by the way. For us it was something that went without saying. We had never had either wars or terrorism. Here Muslims, Christians, Jews had never fought with each other. There weren’t any Muslim pogroms like in Moscow, or killings of sheiks, muftis and imams. There was no ethnic cleansing, no refugees, no purges.
We built mosques or opened places of worship in virtually every populated area, and they were not once pulled down. Not once! We don’t have lists of prohibited Muslim literature. We simply don’t, not one book. Nobody prohibited the Koran or its translations. We printed our Muslim newspapers without censorship and published what we thought in them. We took part in direct broadcasts on the country’s television channels where you can speak the truth live. Can you even imagine something like this in your countries?
Our Crimean Tatar Muslims always held their remembrance gathering in memory of relatives who died during the Deportation on May 18 on the main square in Simferopol. It was only this year that they were prohibited from doing this. They’ve even banned Mustafa Cemilev, the most venerated elder of the people from entering the Crimea. We have Crimean Tatar, Tatar, Arab schools. Here Muslims are a part of the country, a part of the general history of our land. We are at home here. This is our homeland. We freely practiced Islam, worshiped in mosques, fasted for Ramadan, went on the hajj to Sacred Mecca. And nobody prohibited this.
More, among us are ethnic Ukrainians who have converted to Islam and nobody persecuted us for openly preaching Islam. Name me even one other such country. Would you like it to be like this in your country? Everything is fine here. You must not come here to fight against us. Fear almighty Allah! Remember the words of the Prophet Muhammed [peace and mercy to him from Allah!) ‘If two Muslims clash with swords, both the killer and the person killed will go to Hell!’ I know that there are Muslims in the Ukrainian army who are defending our country from external aggression and internal madness.
Do not come here to fight us, remember the words of the Prophet. They are simply defending their Homeland, their families and homes. You remember: ‘The life, honour and property of a Muslim are inviolable.’ That is the law of Islam. Not everything here was wonderful, but we lived in freedom. And we treasure that freedom. In Ukraine we’ll all obsessed with freedom. We don’t need bread, give us freedom. Without freedom we don’t have appetite or sleep. We do not exchange our country for money and a stable dictatorship. There are things which are not for sale.”
Earlier, the Kyiv mufti said that “if people who love Ukraine and speak for dignity, liberty and equal rights are called Banderites [as the Moscow media routinely do], then Ukrainian Muslims and particularly the Crimean Tatars can with some humor be called Islamo-Banderites”.
Ismagilyov’s MSD, although self-described as “the MSD of Ukraine,” is only one of a half dozen such institutions in that country and has far fewer parishes than does the MSD in Russian-occupied Crimea. Its relations with most Muslim leaders in the peninsula have been good, but none of them is subordinate to this MSD.
The MSDs are of course a legacy of the Russian and Soviet past rather than being in any way a canonical part of Islam, and thus it is important to read Mufti Ismagilyov’s statements, while clearly heartfelt, as putting his organization in a position to exploit the nationalizing forces within Ukraine’s religious establishment in the wake of the Crimean Anschluss.