October 27, 2009

Radical Islam Comes to Crimea Ukraine

According to a recent press release, radical Islam has officially arrived in Crimea Ukraine.

My wife and I had been hearing more and more about radical Islamists operating in Crimea and now there are some documented facts. On Monday, Reuters published a story on Crimea based on news announced at a press meeting by Yuri Lutsenko, Ukraine’s interior minister: “Lutsenko said explosive materials, detonators, a Kalashnikov rifle and cartridges, firearms instruction manuals, and propaganda material propagating extreme Islam were found in seven places.” He stated that three suspects being held “were suspected of belonging to al-Takfir wal-Hijra, which originated in Egypt and is linked with activities in North Africa.” While technically they are still only "suspects," when you do the math what does it add up to? Weapons plus explosives plus radical Islamic propaganda equals what?

With an attitude disengaged indifference Lutsenko went on to say "A network of the extreme Islamic movement al-Takfir wal-Hijra, which is banned by many countries in the world, is spreading in the Crimean territory of Ukraine"…"I find it strange that "Revival", a gazette published by Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which is also an Islamic extremist organization banned by the majority of the world's countries, is printed freely, especially in Crimea."

Personally, I find it strange that the capital has been so completely disengaged from what happens in Crimea. His words imply that the president has no say whatsoever in terms of what happens on the peninsula. It's true that Crimea is an autonomous republic but that does not mean the president has zero influence here. This is precisely the attitude, however, that has fueled the pro-Russian zeal and the growth of radical Islam here. President Yushchenko’s policy has been basically to let Crimea solve its own problems, which basically has meant that serious problems don’t get solved, such as the Tatar land grab question. Crimea is a time bomb waiting to explode, in one way or another, either in a Tatar uprising or in another Ossetia Georgia type scenario. If anyone disagrees, I would love to be proven wrong.

Islamic propagandists use the apathy of the capital as an excuse to incite the younger generation of Tatars to take a violent approach towards solving problems because political appeals haven’t been addressed. Recently, missionaries and some of my students have told me how younger militant Tatars tried to take over one of the main mosques in Crimea but the older Tatars surrounded it and would not let them. The older generation is interested in keeping Tatar culture and tradition and they believe these aspects would be lost if Crimea simply followed radical Islam and Sharia law. This is perhaps why a leader of the Crimean Tatars, Majlis Mustafa Jemilev, was an assassination target by the extremists, as described by the police.

Another tactic by the radicals has been to point out the provocative dress of many women in Crimea, who frequently wear see-through blouses, etc. Sharia law would not allow this and, more and more, you see Tatar women wearing the full hijab, the full body covering typical in strict Islamic countries.

According to the Russian Times, there are political motives fueling political unrest and even a desire to promote bloodshed. Andrey Senchenko of Tymoshenko’s party (BYuT) has stated: “I have information that the presidential administration is working on a plan of igniting an ethnic conflict between the pro-Russian population and the Tatars. This would allow the president to declare a state of emergency and cancel the scheduled presidential vote.”

The Jamestown Foundation has also pointed out the lengths to which Russian intelligence would go to destabilize Crimea: "Recruited Tatars were also paid to speak on Russian television about the existence of alleged training camps for Islamic terrorists in the Crimea." When there is such a thick diversity of goals and density of corruption, it's hard to tell what is real and what isn't. According to the leader of the Crimean Tatars, Mustafa Dzhemilev, they are not interested in violence and they are trying to do all they can to keep the peace.

For what it’s worth, my wife had a dream a long time ago showing that our family would have to flee Crimea on a short notice. Although she would say she is not a prophetess, I have noticed that her dreams very often come true. Maybe it’s time to take a long overdue vacation. Well, it’s definitely time to pray. It's interesting that a well-known evangelist arrived recently from Uzbekistan with a vision for a spiritual awakening among the Tatar people. This is in addition to the many independent missionaries working among this people group. Ephesians 6:12 is a good verse to keep in mind: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

Ultimately, for the believer, decisions about where to live and what to do aren't based on circumstances and appearances but rather on seeking God's perfect will. And while one may become paranoid of terrorism, the fact is that more people die from traffic accidents, bee stings and drowning in bathtubs than from terrorism.

Photo of Simferopol Mosque by permission Eva-Lotta Mattsson

Reuters: Ukraine detains three suspected Islamic militants

Russian Times: Crimea: ethnic melting pot heating up

The Jamestown Foundation:  Russian Intelligence Seeks To Destabilize Crimea - Kiev Ukraine

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