ISLAM and MUSLIMS IN MOLDOVA

      

General Information

Republic of Moldova

National name: Republica Moldova

Land area: 12,885 sq mi (33,371 sq km); total area: 13,067 sq mi (33,843 sq km)

Population (2007 est.): 4,320,490

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Chisinau, 772,500 (metro. area), 709,900 (city proper)

Other large cities: Tiraspol, 209,800; Beltsy, 175,400; Bendery (Tighina), 144,900

Monetary unit: Leu

Languages: Moldovan (official; virtually the same as Romanian), Russian, Gagauz (a Turkish dialect)

Ethnicity/race: Moldavian/Romanian 78.2%, Ukrainian 8.4%, Russian 5.8%, Gagauz 4.4%, Bulgarian 1.9%, other 1.3% (2004)

Religions: Eastern Orthodox 98%, Jewish 1.5%, Baptist and other 0.5% (2000)

Literacy rate: 99% (2005 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $9.821 billion; per capita $2,900. Real growth rate: 5%. Inflation: 12.6%.

Moldova (formerly Moldavia) is a landlocked republic of hilly plains lying east of the Carpathian Mountains between the Prut and Dniester (Dnestr) rivers. The country is sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine. The area is a very fertile region with rich black soil (chernozem) covering three-quarters of the territory.

Most of what is now Moldova was the independent principality of Moldavia in the 14th century. In the 16th century it came under Ottoman Turkish rule. Russia acquired Moldavian territory in 1791, and more in 1812 when Turkey gave up the province of Bessarabia—the area between the Prut and Dniester rivers—to Russia in the Treaty of Bucharest. Turkey held the rest of Moldavia but it was passed to Romania in 1918. Russia did not recognize the cession of this territory.

In 1924, the USSR established Moldavia as an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. As a result of the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact of 1939, Romania was forced to cede all of Bessarabia to the Soviet Union in 1940. The Soviets merged the Moldavia ASSR with the Romanian-speaking districts of Bessarabia to form the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. During World War II, Romania joined Germany in the attack on the Soviet Union and reconquered Bessarabia. But Soviet troops retook the territory in 1944 and reestablished the Moldavian SSR.

For many years, Romania and the USSR disputed each other's territorial claims over Bessarabia. Following the aborted coup against Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, Moldavia proclaimed its independence in Sept. 1991 and changed its name to the Romanian spelling, Moldova.

Islamic History and Muslims

In 2005 the Spiritual Organisation of Muslims in Moldova headed by Talgat Masaev was denied registration despite of the appeal of the Mission to Moldova of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. According to Islamic Human Rights Commission, Moldova’s Muslim population have been subjected to discrimination and harassment from the Moldovan government, including the refusal to recognise and register Moldova’s Muslims.

Status of religion in post-independence Moldova

Moldova is a small republic sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania. With independence from the former Soviet Union, Moldova did witness greater religious freedom. Legislation passed in 1992 guaranteed religious freedom and required that the government officially recognise all religious groups. Thus, majority composite faiths, such as the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as the Jewish faith, have been afforded official recognition, extending to state funding.

State refusal to recognise Moldova’s Muslims

However, Moldova’s minority Muslim community, estimated to be 3,000 strong, have been repeatedly refused official recognition and registration by the Moldovan government. This is despite the right to religious freedom and toleration enshrined in Moldova’s constitution. Article 16 of the Moldovan Constitution establishes the principle of equality before the law and public authorities, irrespective of race, nationality, ethnic origin, language, religion, etc. Article 10 guarantees all citizens the right to preserve, develop and express their ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity. Furthermore, Article 32-3 of the Constitution stipulates that the law should prohibit and punish instigation to ethnic, racial or religious hatred and incitement to discrimination. Article 31 protects freedom of conscience, including freedom of religion, while freedom of opinion and expression are guaranteed by Article 32-1.

In 2002 Moldova’s Muslim community launched a challenge to this continual denial through the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The case is still pending.

Government justification for state-sanctioned discrimination towards Moldova’s Muslims

The State Religious Service (SRS), a central authority reporting directly to the Moldovan government, refused repeatedly to register the Spiritual Council of Muslims of Moldova. In September 2000, Gh.Armasum, head of the SRS, justified the refusal to register Muslim organisations on the basis that “97% of population of Moldova is Christian”.

According to Serghei Ostaf, a human rights lawyer with the Moldavian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, the “government acts very much form a Christian-biased position. Most of the recognised religious faiths are Christian or Christian-derives”. The Spiritual Council of Muslims of Moldova also allege that is was discriminated against because some of its members are Afghan and Chechen refugees.

Detentions of Muslims and Forced Mosque closures

On 27 July 2002 three leading Muslims, Talgat Masaev, leader of the Spiritual Council of Muslims of Moldova, Rustam Ahsamov, head of ‘Calauza’, a Muslim charitable organisation and Haisan Abdel-Rasul, a Sudanese citizen, were detained at the headquarters of the Interior Ministry in the Moldovan capital Chisinau over a summer camp to study Islam. According to Masaev no reasons was given for their arrests, but were asked about links with “Islamic terrorism” and Osama bin Landen. Masaev further added, “I was not beaten but the other two were severely beaten - for no reasons. The officers behaved like bandits”.

Until recently Chisinau’s Muslim community rented three venues to hold Friday prayers. Worshippers at all three venues had been subjected to state harassment, checking their identities and filming those worshippers attending prayers. In early 2002 two were shut down. Police raided the third on 26 July 2002 during Friday prayers, with the police taking the identity of all those present. On the same day as the raid, Masaev was questioned alone at the Interior Ministry and warned to end his attempts to register Moldova’s Muslim community. Also, on the same day Ahsamov was questioned about the activities of ‘Calauza’.

According to the Moldavian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, other Muslims were summoned for questioning by the Interior Ministry. Other forms of state harassment and discrimination towards Moldova’s Muslims. In 2001 it was reported that in the Transdniester region in eastern Moldova, the KGB (secret police) interrogated Muslims.

In June 2002, the Moldovan Justice Ministry threatened to ban Muslim NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations), accusing them of spreading ‘Islamic propaganda’. Other government organs refer to Islam as ‘Islamic cult’ and the use of this terminology has become evident in certain sections of the Moldovan media. Indeed, the Moldovan government has been vocal in its attacks on Islam. In September 2002 an Interior Ministry press release proclaimed, “many societies and non-government organisations have been created in the latest time in Moldova, which aim mainly at making propaganda of Islamic culture and religion”. The Interior Ministry claimed that no Muslim community existed in Moldova justifying the official non-recognition of Islam. The Interior Ministry has also claimed that the Moldovan police have discovered many improvised mosques in the homes of foreign students. Also, the Romanian Missionary Society has proclaimed Moldova’s Muslim population as the target of evangelical proselytising.

Political and media hysteria towards Muslims in Moldova

Post-9/11 parliamentary inquires conducted by extreme right-wing MPs have made various unsubstantiated claims of the existence of ‘terrorists’ amongst Muslims students of North African and Near Eastern origin at the International Independent University of Moldova.

Intolerance towards Moldova’s Muslims is not just limited to the political arenas, but has also found its way into the Moldovan media. A June 8 2001 article in ‘Dialog’, a weekly newspaper, entitled ‘Snares of the Sects’ attacked the activities of Muslim humanitarian organisations and right-wing newspaper ‘Flux’ ran a number of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab articles.

IHRC concerns over the situation of Moldova’s Muslims.

IHRC lends it unreserved support to efforts to pursue state recognition and equality through the ECHR. IHRC condemns the Islamophobia of the Moldovan government and seeks to remind Moldovan authorities that there has been an indigenous Muslim presence in Moldavia since Ottoman times. The obstinate refusal to recognise Moldova’s Muslim population renders the constitution useless, as the current stance of the Moldovan government effectively discards its provisions.

IHRC calls upon the Moldovan government to recognise and register Moldova’s Muslim population and end all forms of state-sponsored discrimination and harassment.

IHRC also expresses its concerns over the treatment of Afghani and Chechen refugees. IHRC seeks to remind the Moldovan government of Article 19 of the constitution entitling aliens and stateless persons to the same rights as citizens of the Republic of Moldova, as well as its obligations under various international treaties.

MUSLIMS IN MOLDOVA DESPERATELY REQUIRE HELP

*Please visit this brother's site & donate whatever you can....you can donate by emailing him, Aaliyah*

I recently returned from a trip to Moldova in Eastern Europe. Before travelling there I had done some basic research about the country and came across a few articles about the situation of the Muslims there.

I read that they were facing serious problems due to the government not allowing them to register Islam as a religion and therefore not granting them the freedom to practise their religion. An article by the Islamic Human Rights Commission summarises this ( http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=677 )

I hadn't really thought much about these issues because I felt, like many others, that enough people were already participating in efforts to help the Muslims there and that it was not something that I could necessarily help with. So upon arrival in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, it was the last thing on my mind.

Moldova is officially the poorest country in Europe as there is
virtually no industry and few job opportunities. The population is about 4.4 million of which approximately 3,000 are Muslims made up of various ethnic groups from in and around the former Soviet Union.

Statistics indicate that 600,000 people have left Moldova to find work elsewhere and the economy is sustained primarily by money sent back in remittances.

I met a Moldovan brother called Rustom Ahsanov and his family. They had all accepted Islam in 2001. Their warmth, sincerity and genuine concern for the Muslims in their country, as well as outside, was most impressive. This brother has been trying to secure a place in Chisinau where Muslims can perform their daily prayers, jumu'ah, and other basic Islamic activities and education. He has managed to set up a charity organisation on ethnic grounds to perform these activities on a limited level. Whilst this is not ideal, it is a start, and allows the Moldovan Muslims to begin practising their religion without fear or hinderance.

There is a small Arab community in Chisinau made up of foreign students from the Middle East. As a result of this contact between the Arabs and the indigenous Muslim population some financial assistance and guidance was provided that allowed the centre to be run on a basic level. However, recently the Arab community has isolated itself from the local Muslims and stopped providing any assistance. Consequently, the place that was being used as the main Masjid in Chisinau has been forced to close because the Muslims have not been able to pay rent or bills for the last three months.

The only person taking the initiative and struggling to keep things moving is Br Rustom. Alhamdulillah, he has managed to achieve much through his efforts but there is much more that needs to be done.

It is essential that we, as Muslims living in the West, take some responsibility and assist in whatever way that we can, whether it be financially, via legal assistance, or by raising awareness of their plight. Copies of official documents of the charity and its permission to use the premises are available, as is correspondence with the European Court for Human Rights (EHRC) in trying to place pressure on the Moldovan government to allow Muslims to practise their religion in peace.

The landlord of the place where the Masjid is currently situated is demanding payment and threatening to take legal action against Br Rustom. He is a brother of modest means with a family to support.

It would be very sad indeed if we were to abandon him, because in doing so we would be abandoning the Muslims of Moldova.

For more details and if you can help please contact Shehzad:
E-mail: shez.q@zen.co.uk
Website: http://www.zen13886.zen.co.uk 

 

MOLDOVA: Muslims vow to defy "illegal" worship ban

By Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service, 11 March 2004 

Police banned a Muslim community in the capital Chisinau from meeting for worship after raiding the place where they meet after Friday prayers on 5 March. They detained several Muslims and three Syrian citizens were expelled from the country. "The situations getting worse, with the police arriving at least every other week," community leader Talgat Masaev told Forum 18 News Service. He and a colleague have been repeatedly fined for leading a community which does not have state registration, although the fines so far have been overturned. Forum 18 has been unable to find out from officials why police raid the Muslim community and have refused it registration for the past four years. "They have the right to meet without registration, provided they do not break the law, "human rights activist Stefan Uritu insisted.

The leader of a Muslim community in the capital Chisinau that has been repeatedly raided by the police and ordered to halt its unregistered religious worship has vowed that it will continue to hold prayers. "The situation is getting worse, with the police arriving at least every other week," Talgat Masaev told Forum 18 News Service from Chisinau on 11 March. "But we intend to go ahead with Friday prayers tomorrow, Inshallah!" Last Friday (5 March) five police officers arrived after prayers had finished and banned further meetings, claiming that gathering for worship without state registration is illegal. Forum 18 was unable to find out from officials of the Interior Ministry or the State Service for the Affairs of Cults why police repeatedly raid the Muslim meeting place, why officials believe meeting for worship without registration is illegal and why the State Service has refused to register this Muslim community. Masaev said the Muslims meet for worship in the offices of a local charity and some 50 were present for prayers last Friday.

He complained that during the raid the police had been rude to the Muslims and had offended them by walking in the prayer room in their shoes despite being politely asked to take them off. The police held several community members briefly, while three Syrian citizens were taken to court and expelled from Moldova. Two others were briefly detained for resisting the police, a charge Masaev rejected as a "falsification". He said a cameraman accompanied the police and filmed without the Muslims' permission. The film was shown in a report of the raid on the private Pro TV channel on 10 March. An official of the State Service told Forum 18 on 11 March that its chairman, Sergei Yatsko, had already left for the day and no-one else could comment on the raids on the Muslims or why the State Service had repeatedly refused to register the Muslim community. Forum 18 was unable to gain an explanation from any interior ministry officials.

Vasile Sterbet, head of the ministry's international relations department, told Forum 18 on 11 March that he did not have information about the case, although he insisted that" everyone in Moldova has the right to worship". No-one was available in the ministry's department for social order or the press centre. Iurie Spinu, a department head at the Interior Ministry, told Pro TV that religious communities must have registration in order to function. "Under Article 200 of the Code of Administrative Offences, if such organizations are not registered, administrative fines are applied. All police actions are being carried out in accordance with provisions of the above article."

Masaev reported that both he and fellow Muslim leader Rustam Akhsanov had been repeatedly tried under Article 200, though both had so far been able to appeal successfully against the fines imposed. Masaev told Forum 18 he is awaiting the result of his appeal against the most recent fine of 20 times the minimum monthly wage, imposed by the court of Chisinau's central district on 17February."Any person has the right to pray to and preach about whichever God they believe in," Stefan Uritu, chairman of the Moldovan Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, told Forum 18 from Chisinau on 11 March. "They have the right to meet without registration, provided they do not break the law." Asked why he believes the police threatened them and banned them from meeting for worship if the law does not require registration, he declared:

 "The police often regard themselves as above the constitution and above the law. "Uritu maintained that Article 200 of the administrative code does not meet international human rights standards and should be abolished. "The police have used it against the Muslims as an argument to allow them to obstruct their activity," he told Forum 18.A spokesperson for the Chisinau office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe told Forum 18 on 11 March that it is following the Muslims' case and is seeking more information about reports of the latest raid. The Muslim community first applied for state registration in 2000, but the State Service returned the application without considering it. Despite taking the case through the Moldovan courts the Muslim community failed to gain registration and has now lodged a casewith the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

"We want registration so that they will leave us alone," Masaev insisted. The Muslims seem to have little sympathy from Mikhail Sidorov, head of the parliamentary commission on human rights and national minorities. He told Forum 18 on 11 March that religious communities have to act according to the law and that if they have any complaints about the State Service or the police they should challenge the decisions through the courts. "The Muslims have not complained to us," he declared.

Another Muslim community led by Mufti Alber Babaev and subject to the Russian-based Muslim Central Spiritual Administration has likewise failed to get registration so far. "Moldova is the only state in the European CIS where Islam is not officially recognised as a faith," Babaev told Forum 18 from Chisinau on 11 March. "But I believe the state will resolve this within the next few months, a s it wants to join the European Union and the government is sensible." He said up to 300 Muslims regularly gather for Friday prayers at a rented facility in Chisinau, with up to 2,000 on major festivals. He said they have had no problems with the police or fines.

He said there are about another ten communities of his jurisdiction in Moldova. Uritu speculated that the authorities might be waiting to register Babaev's group until they have crushed Masaev's group. "It is similar to the dispute within the Orthodox Church between the Russian and the Romanian Churches, where the government supported the pro-Russian Church," he declared. "Babaev is pro-Russian, while Masaev is more oriented towards what I regard to be 'pure Islam'.

" The Bessarabian Metropolitanate of the Romanian Orthodox Church only obtained registration in Moldova after the European Court of Human Rights fined the government for arbitrarily denying it registration. http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=273

The Society of Islamic Culture "ASSALAM" Moldova:

The Society of Islamic Culture "Assalam" was founded in 1995. Since gaining independence, Moldova, have increased international contacts, and in Moldova to study many students have come from Muslim countries. In order to meet the needs of the faithful in spiritual communion, a group of young enthusiasts united and organized the Society of Islamic Culture "Assalam".

O.I.K. “Assalam” was created to ensure that Muslims living in Moldova, as well as those who are interested in Islamic culture, could gain access to knowledge about Islam in its pure form and know Islam as it is, without fiction and distortion. Unfortunately, many judged solely on Islam for some «representatives» Islamic world. We say that Islam is a religion of peace and reaffirm that every day all their deeds and actions.

The name of our society comes from the Arabic word «Salam» - «World».  Also «As-Salam», is one of the most beautiful name of our Lord. Taking this title, we want to stress that came with the world.

We say Salam Alaykom (As-Salam) - Peace to you!

One of the major challenges of our society unity of believers, as well as in the Holy Koran says: 49.10. Truly, the faithful - brothers.

At our prayers and classes are most people of different nationalities - Moldavians, Arabs, Tatars, Ukrainians, Turks and all are perfectly common language. Any person can come and make sure that this is Islam and affability cordiality.

Many educated people in Europe and Moldova, long considered the cultural rights, get acquainted with the general ledger Muslims - Holy Quran. Many famous figures of science and culture studied the Koran, it is truly a great storehouse of wisdom and a source of inspiration for people reflective.

Our goals are:

The company "Assalam" is not inherently political and non-profit organization. We want to show people that Islam is not a war and problems, as some want to prove to the media. Islam - it is, above all, highly moral life, which requires us to our God - the Almighty Allah. Our Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) said - I came only to improve manners.

We advocate the establishment and strengthening of family ties, we categorically oppose the use of alcohol and drugs. We show which way the society can avoid AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. We are carrying out acts aimed at combating trafficking in women and children (traffic). We provide assistance to those who need it. And, of course, to ensure that all this was done from the heart, we teach people piety and sincerity.

Our activities:

• Society "Assalam" holds weekly traditional Muslim Friday prayer sermon in, during which the imam calls on Muslims to godliness.

• Weekly lectures on Islamic culture and lectures on studying the Koran for everyone.

• When a society acting courses in Arabic.

• Every year during the month of Ramadan, every day we ugoschaem believers and our guests.

• We celebrate the festive prayer and celebration concert Razgoveniya and the Feast of Sacrifice.

• Perform folk festivals and national costume presentation with representatives of Muslim countries.

• O.I.K.  "Assalam" promotes wishing to make a pilgrimage to Mecca fertile.

• If possible, society holds charity events.  We make gifts to people with disabilities. Giving gifts to retirees.

• In warm seasons, we have carried out for all comers nature hike, where we and our children can learn something new about Islam and improve their morale, as well as a good time playing football, volleyball, etc.

We ask the Lord of heaven and earth to facilitate us to our call for good and for peace, and that we heard as many people as possible. We ask him, that he opened the eyes of the people, and they saw the true light of God.  We ask him to help us distinguish good from evil, and are looking for him refuge and protection from the evil of our cases and the evil of our souls.  O Allah bless our Prophet Muhammad and his family and his associates, and all those who followed him. ( http://www.assalam.md/assalam.php )

    Islamic Centers and Organizations

جمعية الثقافة الإسلامية, 25 P.O. Box 940, Chisinau, MD 2025, MOLDOVA. Phone: 00373 79474711, Fax: 00373 22503266, Email: assalam60@hotmail.com , URL: www.assalam.md , Directions: جمعية الثقافة الإسلامية " السلام"، هي الجمعية الثقافية الإسلامية الأولى في ملدوفا ، تأسست عام 1994 ، تعنى بنشر الثقافة الإسلامية في ملدوفا وبتربية النشئ على مبادئ الدين الحنيف حيث يتواجد ما يقارب الـ 15000 ألف مسلم في ملدوفا، بخلاف التوافد العربي المكون غالبيته من الطلاب ، حوالي 3000 طالب ، الجمعية عضو اتحاد المنظمات الإسلامية في أوروبا.  General Information: Societatea de Cultura Islamica "ASSALAM" din Republica Moldova. Studierea culturii, religiei islamice, studierea si organizarea de lectii spre a aduce la cunostinta tuturor, ce spune Islamul,modul liber de viata, istoria aparitiei, aparitiei lui. studierea limbii Coranului (araba)etc. Sustinerea studentilor straini musulmani veniti la studii si a locuitorilor musulmani bastinasi.

   Muslim Owned Business

References
Islam in Moldova ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Moldova   , October, 2008).
Info please ( http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107787.html ,  October, 2008).
Islam Finder ( http://www.islamicfinder.org/cityPrayerNew.php?country=moldova  , October, 2008).
Briefing: Moldova's Unofficial Muslims  ( http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=677  , October, 2008).
Anonymous, Documents from Representatives of Islamic Organizations in Moldova, October 2008.