Fighting for Ukraine in the name of Allah
Ukraine’s communities of Muslims differently react to the Donbas war
Read the original text at tyzhden.ua.
In the summer of 2014, I had an active correspondence with my friend, a Muslim who lived in a city of Donetsk. Actually, separatist flags were risen over this town back in May, and since then a "dead rear" of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People’s Republic" remained occupied territory. I learned about what is happening in the local Islamic community, and how Muslims react to all these events. His messages helped me to be aware of the reaction of the Muslims. The older generation, tended to support the Russian side, and some mosques generally advocated separatist ideas. And someone, realizing that the conflict lasted, left the area ATO. Eventually, so did my friend.
Many Ukrainian Muslims entered the ranks of the Armed Forces and volunteer battalions. Muslims were significantly affected by the conflict of 2014-2016 years. And the question is not only in Donetsk mosque Ahat-Jami, ceiling of which was ruined by the artillery shell in August 2014. Almost half of all Ukrainian Muslim community lived in Crimea, and the second largest Muslim region was Donbas. Virtually in every major industrial city of Donetsk and Luhansk there is a mosque. Moreover, in 1999 - 2004 in Donetsk even functioned Ukrainian Islamic University.
Choice of the concerned
Now, however, all this has become history. Even before the ATO during events, two Muslim leaders of Ukraine Said Ismagilov and Emirali Ablaev (who with the beginning of the occupation left pro-Ukrainian positions) clearly expressed their support of the Euromaidan changes. Sheikh Said Ismagilov was an active participant of Euromaidan in Donetsk and Kyiv, and later was forced to leave his native Donetsk. Last year, the new "government" tried to give the green light to "Mufti of DPR," but by and large significant changes in the jurisdiction did not happen. Obviously, Russian curators advised local magistrates not to affect ethnic minorities if they are not seen in active pro-Ukrainian propaganda, not to spoil the already dark image of "LPR and DPR."
It happened that the separatists placed heavy artillery somewhere near mosques and tried to re-register their communities, but direct evidence of their ban was not registered. The only exception was the exposure of "extremist Habashis sect " in May this year, when "DPR secret services" have arrested several members of the Islamic community "Donbas Mufti," and proclaimed its literature "extremist."
Muslims, however, were not passive participants in the war. Muslims fought in volunteer battalions "Aydar," "Dnipro," in 93 separate brigade, and other units. In the summer of 2014, volunteers were trying to get "halal food" for many units. Muslim fighters often tried not to publicize personal information about themselves (especially those whose families stayed in the occupied Crimea), but they did not hide their Islamic identity. At one of the roadblocks in the Donetsk region, until recently, there was a large green flag of Muslim symbol of faith. Actually, it was the flag of Saudi Arabia.
That is the reason for fighting
Someone responded to a command from the military units, but most volunteers went to fightwithout pre-military experience. Although Muslim authorities have no consensus on whether to fight under the banner of "non-Islamic" state, history knows many such cases. Some Muslims were motivated to participate in a war because if Russian Federation seizes Ukraine’s territories, Muslims might be persecuted. Muslims who lived in the area ATO, fought under the Ukrainian flag in order to protect their honor and property, that is, in this sense has created grounds for armed jihad against the invaders. Other Muslim structures, particularly those with ties to Russia, limited or general rhetoric about supporting the territorial integrity of Ukraine, or even pretended (and continue to do) that nothing has changed in the country.
Crimean Tatars and Muslims Caucasians (especially veterans of the Chechen wars) see current events as one of the stages of regain their homeland. We cannot forget the name of Noman Chelebigikhan battalion, involved in the civil blockade of Crimea. However, despite the best efforts of the Crimean Tatar activists, the status of the unit remains civil rather than military one.
Muslims joined to the rear as well. Muslim chaplains appeared in Ukrainian army for the first time. Previously predominantly Muslim chaplaincy meant visiting places of detention. Thus, the military chaplaincy Management of Muslims of Ukraine, regularly visits the ATO zone. A few years ago no one could imagine that Ukrainian flag would unite Christians and Muslims.
The need for military chaplains appeared in July 2014, when the first Muslim Artem Netrunenko was killed in Luhansk region. Imams go round the front, each in his own sector, pray together with Muslim warriors, communicate with them, and bring religious literature; they also visit hospitals, and burry in accordance with Muslim rites. They closely cooperate with Christian chaplains of various denominations, who help to deliver the Muslim literature.
How many Muslims have passed through the crucible of war? No one knows the exact number, but it is at least a hundred people, many of whom now serve in the Armed Forces, National Guard, and volunteer battalions. However, this phenomenon does not only reflect some Islamic context; we can also see the emerging Ukrainian civic consciousness that combines different values, not only Christian, but also Islamic.
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