Russia’s Muslim elite vows to tackle Islamist extremism

February 10, 2011
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(Russia's chief Mufti Ravil Gaynutdin in Moscow February 10, 2011/Sergei Karpukhin)

Russia’s Muslims on Thursday set up a council of experts to devise ways to tackle extremism, two weeks after a suicide bomb attack on the country’s busiest airport killed 36.  Earlier this week Islamist leader Doku Umarov said he had ordered the devastating attack on Moscow’s Domodedovo airport.

“People need to be protected from extremism and terrorism, and educated away from this,” said Ravil Gaynutdin, the chief Mufti of Russia, which is home to some 20 million Muslims, or a seventh of the population. “These experts will play a very important role towards making things better… for Muslims to be more involved in Russian society,” Gaynutdin, clad in a flowing black robe and crowned by a silk white hat, told Reuters in an interview before chairing the council’s first meeting.

He added that the council, comprised of 38 Russian Muslims involved in politics, law and media, will regularly meet to analyse how Muslims live in today’s Russia and make recommendations to government on how their lives can improve. Initiatives could include offering religious guidance to Muslim youths, setting up sports clubs, building more mosques and making sure Muslim literature is easy to find.

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(Victims of a bomb explosion at Moscow's Domodedovo airport in this image taken from mobile phone footage January 24, 2011/Djem79/Reuters TV)

A decade after federal troops drove separatists out of power in a second war in Chechnya, the North Caucasus — home to around half of Russia’s Muslims — is plagued with violence and rebels there want to carve out a separate Islamic state.

President Dmitry Medvedev has told security officials terrorism is Russia’s biggest threat.

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