SOVA Center Representative Speech at the OSCE Conference on Islamophobia
On October 9-10, 2007, in Cordoba, an OSCE conference on intolerance and discrimination against Muslims took place.
Galina Kozhevnikiva participated in the conference and her speech is published below.
Dear Chairman, dear participants,
Islamophobia in Russia shows itself in different ways.
Firstly, there is racist violence against Muslims. It is rather hard to identify attacks motivated by religious hatred out of the large number of violent crimes against people from Central Asia and the Caucasus. However, such crimes exist, and in 2007 alone we have registered two such cases in Kostroma and Perm.
Mosques are regular targets of vandalism. In this year we have registered at least three cases of desecration.
Unfortunately, such cases are almost never investigated, and if they are, the hate motive is never considered. Thus, in 2006, in Sergiev Posad, neither investigators nor the court system took into account the hate motive while dealing with an assault accompanied by anti-Muslim insults at an local imam.
Muslims are often discriminated against by officials themselves, especially concerning the issuing of permits for the building of mosques. One of the most known of such cases concerns an attempt to build a mosque in Astrakhan, where a one and a half year long lawsuit is still waiting to be heard in Strasbourg in the European Court of Human Rights. This case is not the only one.
Muslim groups independent from the official Islamic High Councils have become targets of persecution by law enforcement bodies. Thus, from the beginning of 2004, there were more than 40 accusatory court decisions concerning "Muslim cases" (in particular, about 30 of them concerned the terrorist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir which is forbidden in Russia). The accused Muslims were found guilty of terrorism, participation in extremist societies, etc. Some of these verdicts were fair, but the majority of the cases were contrived, and the suspects tortured.
If a suspect turns out to be a citizen of another state, he is expelled to his country of origin, no matter how severely he will be persecuted there. The case of Rustam Muminov is widely known. Even after the court decided that his deportation would be illegal, and after a special decision of the European Court on Human Rights to forbid this deportation, this Uzbekistan citizen was still deported from Russia.
The enforcement of the Law on Combating Extremist Activity was evidently misused in the case of the ban of the Russian translations of fourteen books by the 20th century Turkish theologian and philosopher Said Nursi. Because the Moscow city court approved this decision on 18 September 2007, these groups face a ban only for distributing books written by their religious teacher.
Some recommendations for the OSCE countries:
1. To take measures to thoroughly and competently investigate hate crimes.
2. To take measures to prevent Islamophobia as well as other forms of intolerance and discrimination, first of all on the part of the law enforcement authorities, using in particular ECRI and OSCE recommendations for the police.
3. Not to pass and enforce legislation which restricts freedom of speech according to religious views, if there is no incitement of hatred towards people of other religions or instigation of violence.