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Cablegate: Yekaterinburg Outreach to Muslims Expands - Iftar 2009

VZCZCXRO9789
RR RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHYG #0061 2750616
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020616Z OCT 09
FM AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1361
INFO RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 1006
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 0594
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 0604
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 1398

UNCLAS YEKATERINBURG 000061

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KIRF PGOV PHUM RS
SUBJECT: YEKATERINBURG OUTREACH TO MUSLIMS EXPANDS - IFTAR 2009

1. The U.S. Consulate General in Yekaterinburg observed the end
of Ramadan by hosting an Iftar for 40 prominent Muslim religious
leaders, business people, politicians, diplomats, journalists,
teachers, and NGO activists on September 15, 2009 at the Consul
General's residence. The Consulate's guests included members of
the Tatar, Bashkir, Chechen, Ingush, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Azeri, and
Tajik ethnic groups that make their homes in Yekaterinburg and
Sverdlovsk oblast. For the first time, we extended our outreach
to Muslim politicians and businessmen, including several oblast
and city duma deputies. Participants warmly received President
Obama's Ramadan message. The representative of the Sverdlovsk
Oblast Council of Muslim Elders, Rais Nurimanov - one of the
most respected Muslim leaders in Sverdlovsk - called for
integration of the Muslim community in the Urals. Nail
Shaymartdanov, Vice Speaker of the Sverdlovsk Oblast Duma, spoke
about developing the community's international cooperation.

2. Interestingly, although representatives of various
organizations that adhere to either the Central Spiritual
Directorate of Muslims (TsDUM, headed by Supreme Mufti Talgat
Tadjuddin of Ufa) or the Council of Muftis of Russia (headed by
Mufti Ravil Gaynutdin) came to the Consulate Iftar, imams and
muftis did not. We were not able to contact official
representative of TsDUM for the Urals Federal District or Mufti
Sibagatulla (also TsDUM). The Mufti of Central Asian Muslims in
Yekaterinburg and Imam Mukhametzyanov (both of Gaynutdin's wing)
at first confirmed their participation but cancelled the day of
our Iftar, citing the need to lead prayers at their mosques due
to the large numbers of people (in the thousands) showing up for
evening prayers. Several representatives of the Spiritual
Directorate of Muslims of Asian Russia did join us. Their
official leader in the Urals, Ruslan Nurmametov, seems to have a
broad network of contacts with political leaders, NGOs, and
academic and cultural institutions. With support from regional
and federal authorities this group has been promoting Islam
through classes on world cultures and religions.

3. According to official statistics (based on the 2002 census
and legal migration numbers) about 500,000 Muslims live in
Sverdlovsk oblast, mainly ethnic Tatars and Bashkirs. The
Muslim population is growing with the influx of labor migrants
from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Local
NGOs working with migrants estimate the Muslim population of
Sverdlovsk oblast at 800,000 to 1 million, with 200,000 to
300,000 living in Yekaterinburg. While the official number of
migrants from these countries is said not to exceed 126,000 per
year, Tagir Samatov, former Mufti of the Urals Federal District
(TsDUM), believes that 4.5-5 million Muslims live in the Urals
region. There are about 30 functioning mosques in Sverdlovsk
oblast, the majority led by ethnic Tatars. The oblast government
actively supports interfaith dialogue, and has facilitated
construction and renovation of mosques in and around
Yekaterinburg.

4. About ten of our guests were female. Muslim women in the
Urals seem to be active, open-minded, and collaborative.
Nurzida Bensgier has been in charge of the oblast Interethnic
Informational center for years. Closely cooperating with the
entire Urals Muslim community, she helps migrant workers from
Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Rosalia
Akhmatova heads the Union of Muslim Women, which was formed in
2008. Among other activities, the Union promotes Muslim fashion
and is involved in educational and cultural programs at
different mosques. Oblast TV offers weekly features on Muslim
community activities.

5. This year's Iftar provided new insights into the life of the
Muslim community in the Urals and strengthened the Consulate's
links with local Muslim leaders and community activists. Our
guests suggested several ideas to foster interfaith dialogue and
tolerance in the region. Guests appreciated the attention paid
to the Muslim community and expressed the hope that we would
continue the tradition.

SANDUSKY

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