CAIRO - Russian Muslims have dismissed US criticism of restrictions on their right to practice their religion, saying that they are enjoying full freedom to worshipping.
There are no repressions against good Muslims in our country, Albir Krganov, Mufti of Moscow and the Central Region of Russia, said in a statement cited by Russia Today on Thursday, August 2.
"Decent Muslims are not being persecuted in our country.
A US State Department report about religious freedoms has said that minority faiths are facing discrimination in Russia.
The report said while the Russian Constitution guarantees the right to practice religion, laws and policies restrict religious freedoms by denying some groups legal status and misidentifying their literature as extremist."
It accused authorities of using extremism charges to target minority faiths, detain nonconforming believers or deny them access to places of worship.
But the Muslim leader insisted that Russian Muslims were not being targeted by authorities on claims of extremism.
"Sometimes Muslims are invited to testify to police, they can be treated as witnesses or suspects, Krganov said.
But once their innocence is proved, they are released.
The Russian Federation is home to some 23 million Muslims in the north of the Caucasus and southern republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.
Islam is Russia's second-largest religion representing roughly 15 percent of its 145 million predominantly Orthodox population.
The Moscow Mufti believes that problems facing Muslims arise from communicating with authorities, not from persecution.
The problem is not that the authorities are preventing Muslims from exercising their faith, but that we had a ban on religion for 70 years and we are only learning to cooperate with the state, he said.
"Nobody in Russia stops law abiding citizens from worshipping freely.
Krganov argued that the authors of the US report relied on accounts from groups, which he described as destructive.
There are destructive organizations that are a danger, he said.
It is strange that the USA recognizes this fact in their internal policy but deprives other nations of such rights.
The Russian Orthodox Church was also critical of the US report on religious freedoms in the country.
The expert community can see that the sources of information for the US State Department's report are always the same - the organizations that are not always known and that most likely share the dissident approach towards Russia and the religious organizations here, Georgiy Roschin, Deputy Head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for Relations between the Church and Society, said.
He argued that several European countries have banned groups mentioned in the US report as Jehovah's Witnesses.
And in the US itself we will not find a uniform approach to all religions, and in some other country with different laws on religion, he said.This [report] can only cause certain thoughts and bewilderment.