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Tatarstan Activists Protest Reelection Of Official Mufti

Tatarstan Mufti Gosman Iskhaki (center) with other religious leaders in January 2010.
Tatarstan Mufti Gosman Iskhaki (center) with other religious leaders in January 2010.
KAZAN, Tatarstan -- Opposition Muslim activists in Tatarstan have denounced the reelection of incumbent Mufti Gosman Iskhaki as the republic's religious leader, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

Iskhaki was unanimously reelected for a fourth term at an Islamic congress in Kazan on February 27. Iskhaki ran unopposed.

The congress was attended by many top leaders from Russia's various Muslim congregations.

Official Islamic organizations in Tatarstan cooperate closely with the republic's government. Opposition Muslim activists called Iskhaki's reelection a "farce" and said the outcome was known well in advance; they claimed delegates to the congress simply rubber-stamped the authorities' decision to keep Iskhaki in the post.

Outgoing Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiyev, who attended the forum, called on delegates to promote traditional, moderate Islamic traditions.

Tatars traditionally belong to the Hanafi branch of Sunni Islam. But since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, missionaries from the Middle East have been spreading more radical teachings. Authorities in Moscow and Tatarstan responded by imposing strict control over religious activities.

There are currently more than 1,200 officially registered Islamic congregations (Makhallas) in Tatarstan.

Although the possible unification of all Muslim organizations in Russia was not on the agenda, it was widely discussed on the sidelines of the congress.