22 September 2003, 22:02

Union of Russian Muslims

The Union of Russian Muslims (URM) is a lay nationwide socio-political movement with individual and group membership. It was set up in May 1995. According to its platform, the URM's goals are: consolidating the Russian Muslims and those sympathizing with them to shape and express their political, economic, social, and religious interests; and joining Muslim forces aimed at the revival of Islam's spiritual and cultural values and its historic traditions in Russia. The URM claims succession to the cause of a similar organization that operated in Russia before the revolution of 1917 and had its faction in the Duma. It advocates a constitutional state, socially oriented economy and government protectionism policy in respect of Russian manufacturers and reconstruction of the nation's industrial potential. The Union intends to urge federal government to develop and implement a long-term investment program for the economy of regions inhabited by Muslims and national minorities, as well as attract funds and organizational and technical resources from Muslim states for investment in the economy of Russia, especially its Muslim regions. Some of its other key tasks are: fighting to restore social justice in the nationalities issue; rigorous adherence to the principle of peoples' equality in rights; protection of national minorities' rights; and proportional representation of Muslim peoples in federal power and all spheres of the nation's social and political life. The union comes out strongly against using the army as a police force; believes that problems arising between the center and the regions, as well as ethnic conflicts, should only be resolved in a peaceful way. Leaders of the movement also advocate Russia's membership in the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the creation of a Muslim faction in the Russian Duma.

The movement has offices in most Russian regions. In the process of preparation for the 1995 parliamentary election, the URM collected more than 220,000 signatures for their federal list of candidates, but the Central Electoral Commission saw the preparation of some of them as unobserving the instruction. Stripped of the chance to take a direct part in the election, the URM called on voters to give their votes to the Our Home Is Russia bloc.

The movement is governed by the congress and the URM's General Council that operates in the intervals between congresses. Nadir Khachilaev, leader of Dagestan's socio-political movement Jamaat al-Khurriyat ("Civil Union") and Duma member (1996-1999), on February 10, 1995, was elected chairman of the URM. The activity of the URM remarkably fell after Khachilaev's arrest. Teimuraz Ragimov was appointed acting chairman of the union.

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