Monday, December 17, 2007

Putin Opens Mecca Path for Muslims

Michael Schwirtz, The New York Times (US: New York)

The government is nevertheless concerned that its citizens could be exposed to extremist forms of Islam while on the hajj, and some analysts, including Evgeny Y. Satanovskiy, president of the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies in Moscow, say that government assistance to the pilgrims belies attempts to track their activities.“We know that Saudi Arabia invests in the propaganda of the Saudi Arabian-style Islam, the Wahhabi-style/ Islam, much more than the whole Soviet Union for the whole Soviet history spent on the propaganda of the Communist ideology,” Mr. Satanovskiy said. Most Muslims — with the exception of some extremists in the North Caucasus — are highly integrated into Russian soci\iety, and many government officials and Muslim leaders worry that an influx of more conservative or even radical Islamic beliefs from places like Saudi Arabia could whip up discord. The Russian press has reported recently that many security service personnel are among this year’s pilgrims, evidence, some say, of a government effort to supervise Russian citizens while they are in Saudi Arabia. Officials and hajj organizers have denied that this is the case.

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