Staunton, 1 June – Not one of the 2,000 Muslims currently living in Ukraine’s Luhansk Region favors secession or transferring their region to the Russian Federation, according to the leader of that community. Instead, even though many of them come as he does from parts of Russia, they are proud to be citizens of Ukraine.
Seyfulla Rashidov, a professor at the university there who came from Dagestan 35 years ago and now heads the Salam Muslim community, told the local newspaper that he does not know anyone among the believers there who is backing or is even sympathetic to the secessionists.
A major reason for that is that most of the Muslims in Luhansk are from parts of the Russian Federation, regularly travel there, and know what is happening in the places of their birth. Those who back the secessionists, on the other hand, have either never been to Russia or were there only a long time ago.
Many of the latter – and they do not include any Muslims – see their support for the secessionists as a way of complaining about low pay because they think they will get higher wages if they are not part of Ukraine. That explains the overwhelming support instructors in his university and in the police have given to those who want to break away from Ukraine.
But Muslims know better. They are living better in Ukraine than they did in the areas from which they came. Otherwise they would not be there, Rashidov said. And what they have seen in their places of birth in recent times has been anything but inspiring and attractive. They are loyal Ukrainians, and they are better off in Ukraine.
At the same time, he continued, all Ukrainians need to work together to end corruption, to ensure the rule of law, and to boost wages, and they need to be open to the possibility of better relations between their country and Russia in the future. Rashidov suggested that the post-World War II cooperation of France and Germany could be a model.
Rashidov’s declaration is especially important not only because it suggests that much of the impulse behind the Moscow-backed secessionist movement is economic rather than ethnic but also because it shows that opposition to what Russia is doing in Ukraine is intense among all Muslims there and not just the Crimean Tatars.
And that in turn means that Moscow’s introduction of fighters from Chechnya will likely fail for yet another reason: the Muslim groups from the Kadyrovtsy as they are known [followers of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov–The Interpreter] might have expected a welcome or even support are likely to be the most consistent in combating the appearance of such fighters.