KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 10 April 2001

RUSSIA: DEMOLISH MOSQUE, TAGANROG MUSLIMS TOLD.
Muslims in the southern Russian city of Taganrog, not far from Rostov-
on-Don, must demolish their partially-built mosque, the Rostov oblast
arbitration court finally ruled on 5 March. Mufti Jafar Bikmayev told
Keston News Service on 2 April that he would not demolish the mosque,
but Taganrog�s deputy mayor said court bailiffs would force the Muslims
to carry out the order. No alternative site for a mosque has been found.

RUSSIA: DEMOLISH MOSQUE, TAGANROG MUSLIMS TOLD

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

Muslims in the southern Russian city of Taganrog, not far from Rostov-
on-Don, must demolish their partially-built mosque, the Rostov oblast
arbitration court finally ruled on 5 March, upholding � after numerous
deferments - the decision of the Taganrog city arbitration court of 18
December 2000. Head of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims in
Rostov oblast (and deputy to Mufti Talgat Tajuddin, head of the Russian
Federation Central Muslim Spiritual Administration) Mufti Jafar
Bikmayev told Keston News Service on 2 April that he would not
demolish the mosque, but Taganrog�s deputy mayor Nikolai Savchenko
said the same day that court bailiffs would force the Spiritual
Administration to carry out the order.

The mosque in Taganrog was destroyed during the Soviet period and the
congregation of 7000 applied to the city administration for permission to
construct a new building. A plot of land was allocated, and a draft
decision on building the mosque prepared after all the relevant agencies
agreed. Subsequently, however, the city administration froze the signing
of the documents and took the Rostov oblast Muslim Spiritual
Administration to court for laying foundations for the future mosque.
(See KNS 8 December 2000.)

The city administration also opened a criminal case against Mufti
Bikmayev for illegal construction work, which was only recently
dropped on the grounds that no offence had been committed. The Mufti
told Keston in January that despite a document in his possession - �a
decree dated 23 June 2000 with fifteen signatures � of the mayor, his first
deputy, the chief architect, the chief lawyer etc.� - both the local and the
oblast court insisted construction had been started without the permission
of the local authorities. He claimed that the Taganrog administration
brought to court on 15 January a decree rushed through three days before
the hearing. This 12 January decree gives the land on which the part-
constructed mosque stands to local businessman Sergei Kasayan for the
construction of a hotel and restaurant complex. On 2 April the Mufti told
Keston that he would not demolish the mosque: �I have spent $38,000 on
installing services and building the foundations and I am responsible to
the people who gave their money for the construction of the mosque.�

Deputy mayor Savchenko insisted that the Mufti did not have official
permission to build the mosque. �There was a draft of the document
which did not pass through our office. It did not have a number and was
not registered, therefore it did not come into force and was not an official
document,� he told Keston on 2 April. He welcomed the decision of the
oblast arbitration court ordering the Muslims to halt construction and to
demolish the building themselves. As far as he knew, however,
demolition had not yet begun and the order would have to be enforced by
the court bailiffs. Asked whether the administration was offering the
Muslims another building plot, Savchenko said a request had not been
received. �They should apply in accordance with the law, start afresh the
whole procedure for securing official approval, and then we�ll see what
decision is reached�.

The Mufti told Keston that not long before the court hearing on 5 March
the Spiritual Administration had approached the Taganrog administration
�with peace proposals�, which had been rejected. He had reached
agreement, however, with the Cossacks, whom the administration had
cited in support of its unwillingness to have a mosque: �We convinced
them that we are not Wahhabites.�

Vladimir Takhtamyshev, the Rostov oblast administration�s expert on
work with religious organisations, told Keston on 2 April that the Rostov
regional administration had attempted to reconcile the two sides. He said
that at a meeting with Mufti Bikmayev in the presence of the oblast�s
deputy governor, Taganrog mayor Sergei Shilo had promised to offer the
Muslims another place to build the mosque, further from the city,
provided they agreed to a smaller building without any religious
distinguishing features. �But so far the Taganrog administration has not
made any other site available,� said Mr Takhtamyshev. �This is typical
for the whole North Caucasus: after the wars and the bomb explosions
attitudes to Muslims are cool. The city authorities are afraid of the
penetration of Islam in its extremist forms and also of its cultural and
economic influence.� He added that there are Russian families who
regularly attend Muslim services and that this is also a source of anxiety.
(END)

Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.