KESTON NEWS SERVICE, 20.00, 3 November 2000

I. RUSSIA: RE-REGISTRATION `BLACK HOLE' IN NORTH CAUCASUS.
In this predominantly Muslim region, of the 145 religious organisations
ordered to reregister, not one local Islamic organisation has been able to do so.
While administrators insist they will adhere to the 31 December deadline, they
gave Keston no plan for how to achieve it.

II. RUSSIA: KABARDINO-BALKARIA'S RESTRICTIVE RELIGION LAW.
Passed in June 1999, the local law violates the Russian Federation 1997 law on
religion, requiring 50 members for reregistration and for organisations to prove
they form part of the structure of a centralised religious organisation.

III. RUSSIA: KABARDINO-BALKARIA MUFTI OPPOSES
INDEPENDENT ISLAMIC ORGANISATIONS. Concerns about extremism
among young people underlie the Mufti�s emphasis on educating the youth in
this �Switzerland of the Caucasus�.

IV. RUSSIA: WILL JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES RECEIVE RE-
REGISTRATION IN KABARDINO-BALKARIA. Their lawyers have been
able to convince the courts to drop two cases, but are doubt a judge will be
willing to take a stand to defend the group�s re-registration.


RUSSIA: RE-REGISTRATION `BLACK HOLE' IN NORTH CAUCASUS

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

According to figures from the Russian Ministry of Justice, Kabardino-Balkaria
has the second poorest re-registration record of all Russia's entities after
Tatarstan. In this North Caucasus republic, only one eighth of religious
organisations that already had registration have been re-registered, despite the
fact that just two months remain before the expiry of the re-registration
deadline. Although the republic's population is traditionally Muslim, no local
Islamic organisation has been re-registered. An official at the republic's
Ministry of Justice blames the `unusual situation in the region', but promises
that by 31 December all the organisations that have submitted applications will
be re-registered.

Yelena Uzbiyeva, who is in charge of the registration of religious organisations
at Kabardino-Balkaria's Ministry of Justice, told Keston on 24 October that of
the 145 religious organisations that had registration, only 19 have been re-
registered. Of these, 15 are Russian Orthodox, one is Jewish and one is Islamic
- the Spiritual Islamic Administration of Kabardino-Balkaria. She admitted that
the documents of several religious organisations have been under consideration
at the Ministry for a long time already. `There is a team of experts on religion
working with all the organisations who are familiar with the situation on the
ground, however little the religious organisations write in the documents. For
the time being, they have discovered a discrepancy only among the Jehovah's
Witnesses, although that was only trifling.' Uzbiyeva promised that by the end
of the year, all the organisations that had submitted documents would be re-
registered, but failed to explain how this would be achieved.

On 24 October, the head of the Spiritual Islamic Administration of Kabardino-
Balkaria (which is under the jurisdiction of the Spiritual Muslim
Administration of European Russia), Mufti Shafig Khazrat Pshikhachev, told
Keston that re-registration of Islamic organisations had been delayed by two to
three months already. According to the mufti, the problem was that each
Islamic community must present an account of its activity. `We have a problem
with this - turning imams into leaders of the communities.'

Khazmurat Yeziyev, an official at the Commission for questions of religious
associations at the republic's government, insists that religious groups must
abide by the republic's restrictive religion law, despite its unconstitutionality
(see separate KNS article). He says each religious group must present an
account of its activity, as specified in this law. `An account is vital for re-
registration. It could take whatever form you want - they could just write down
what they do'. Yeziyev told Keston from Nalchik that the difficulties with re-
registration of Islamic organisations lie with the compilation of an account,
because imams - who are generally very old men - believe
that their task is simply to pray. Yeziyev claims that all the Islamic
organisations will be re-registered very shortly. He also promised that by 31
December all the religious organisations that had submitted applications would
be re-registered. However, he declared that the local Jehovah's Witness
communities would not be re-registered (see separate KNS article).

Uzbiyeva told Keston that five Korean Presbyterian churches which failed to
be re-registered after a court decision were registered as newly formed towards
the end of 1999. (END)


RUSSIA: KABARDINO-BALKARIA'S RESTRICTIVE RELIGION LAW

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

One element complicating the re-registration of religious organisations in the
North Caucasian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria is the restrictive religion law
which violates Russia's 1997 federal law on religion, which should take
precedence over it (see KNS 19 September 2000). Local officials appear to
believe that they are still governed by this law's provisions, despite its
unconstitutionality.

On 23 June 1999, the Council of the Kabardino-Balkaria Parliament adopted a
law `On freedom of conscience and religious organisations', and all religious
organisations were obliged to be re-registered with the state, in accordance with
its provisions. The Kabardino-Balkaria law is much more restrictive that the
federal law, forbidding `the activity of religious organisations that have not
been registered by the state in accordance with the procedures set out in the
current law' (article 9, paragraph 2). Article 7 of the law states that `no fewer
than 50 adult citizens of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic should constitute the
founding members of a local religious organisation (instead of the 10 provided
for in the federal law), united in a religious organisation, which can prove that
it has existed on the said territory for not less than fifteen years, or which can
prove that it forms part of the structure of a central religious organisation of the
same faith'.

`A religious organisation must submit itself to the scrutiny of a panel of experts
on religion at the request of the registering body' (article 6, paragraph 10).
Additionally, the law obliges a religious organisation `to inform the registering
body annually about its continuing activity'. Additionally, `failure to supply the
information indicated in the course of one year will provide grounds for the
registering body to apply to court for an order that would declare that the
religious organisation had stopped its activity' (article 6, paragraph 9). Article
9, point 2 states that `no more than one (central) religious organisation of one
and the same faith may be registered in Kabardino-Balkaria Republic'.

Khazmurat Yeziyev, an official at the Commission for questions of religious
associations at the republic's government, told Keston from Nalchik that the
exacting demands of the local law, including the requirement for 50 founding
members of a religious organisation, `affect Muslims on the whole'. `Let them
recruit 50 people, and then come to us to be registered. We will register
Catholics even if their community consists of just 20 people.' According to
Yeziyev, a definition of a `religious group' was deliberately left out of the law,
in order that all the activity of a religious community should come under state
scrutiny. (END)


RUSSIA: KABARDINO-BALKARIA MUFTI OPPOSES INDEPENDENT
ISLAMIC ORGANISATIONS

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

The head of the Spiritual Islamic Administration of Kabardino-Balkaria, Mufti
Shafig Khazrat Pshikhachev, complained that among the Muslim community in
the republic there are `underground emirs aiming to create a caliphate [a single
Islamic-ruled state]'. `They are informal young people, who really hate the
word "Wahhabi", but who are very similar to them,' he told Keston on 24
October. The mufti is concerned by the presence of independent Islamic
organisations: `We know the value of peace in our North Caucasus. It is not for
nothing that people call our republic the "Switzerland of the Caucasus".'

Kabardino-Balkaria is a republic with a traditionally Islamic population (Sunni
Muslims of the Hanafi school). In the 1930s, practically all the mosques were
destroyed and the clergy were imprisoned or exiled. In 1944, the Balkar
population was accused by Stalin of conspiring with the Nazis, and was
deported en masse to Siberia and Central Asia. They were only able to return to
their homeland during Khrushchev's `thaw'. In 1980, there were only two
working mosques in Kabardino-Balkaria - one in Nalchik (the centre of
Kabarda) and one in Kyzburun (on Balkar territory). Currently, there are 140
Islamic organisations in the republic.

Mufti Pshikhachev argues that the chief guarantee for religious peace and calm
in the region is education. He told Keston that around 3,000 children are taking
a year-long course in 96 towns and villages where there is an exclusively
Islamic population. Additionally, there are four medressehs that offer a two-
year course of education. There are 70 students at the Islamic institute in
Nalchik, of whom 25 are girls (according to the mufti, they study far better than
the boys). The institute is currently closed pending the issue of a state licence.
The mufti himself studied for five years in the Uzbek town of Bukhara, then in
Jordan and Syria, and now he is continuing his studies at the local university's
history faculty. (END)


RUSSIA: WILL JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES RECEIVE RE-REGISTRATION
IN KABARDINO-BALKARIA?

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

The only religious group for which there will be problems with re-registration
in Kabardino-Balkaria, according to Khazmurat Yeziyev, an official at the
Commission for questions of religious associations at the republic's
government, is the Jehovah's Witnesses. `They are carrying out a house-to-
house campaign,' he complained to Keston from Nalchik. `We have advised
them not to create a situation that may endanger the lives of believers. In many
areas, the population is exclusively Muslim. If they drop in at the house of a
fanatical Muslim, then the life of the person who is doing this could be in
danger. We have warned them more than once, and now we will not register
them at all.'

The lawyer Artur Leontyev of the Administrative Centre of the Jehovah's
Witness organisation told Keston on 27 October that there are three registered
communities of Jehovah's Witnesses in Kabardino-Balkaria. According to
Leontyev, legal actions were brought by the public prosecutor in an attempt to
close down the communities in Nartkala and Prokhladny. After lawyers
representing the Jehovah's Witnesses visited the towns, one action was set
aside, and the judge convinced the public prosecutor to set aside the other just
before the start of legal proceedings. In the course of one examination by the
public prosecutor, a representation was made about territorial trespass, in that
the community was involved with a group in the neighbouring republic - North
Ossetia. The Jehovah's Witnesses appealed against the representation, and now
the case documents are being considered by the general prosecutor. According
to Leontyev, a team of experts on religion was appointed, rejections and
amendments were issued, and delays were created in every way possible. The
last letter they received read: `The period for re-registration has been extended
until 31 December 2000.'

Leontyev claims that several times the Ministry of Justice has given the
Jehovah's Witnesses to understand that in the event of a court decision, there
would not be a problem with re-registration. `Officials are simply scared of
taking responsibility, but if there were a court decision, they would have to re-
register us,' he told Keston on 27 October. `We have already prepared legal
challenges and we will appeal to the courts in the near future.' They have
already complained to the Kabardino-Balkaria court about the refusals to re-
register them.

Leontyev believes that the Muslim clergy are unhappy about the presence of
Jehovah's Witnesses in the republic, but `in general the situation is calm'. The
communities of Jehovah's Witnesses have built Kingdom Halls (meeting
houses). When there was an attack on one of the communities, the court
recognised the guilt of the attackers and
handed down punishments. However, the Jehovah's Witness congress in
Nalchik in 1998 was dispersed with the help of police detachments who
apparently threatened to open fire if their meeting took place. Since then, no
Jehovah's Witness congresses have been held in Nalchik. (END)


Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.