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Russian May Prosecute Islamic Leader • Friday April 4, 2003

Associated Press, Apr. 4, 2003

MOSCOW – Russian officials warned a top Islamic leader Friday that his call for a holy war against the United States was illegal and he will be prosecuted if he repeats it.

Supreme Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin said Thursday that his organization had declared jihad, or holy war, against the United States and would raise money to “buy weapons for fighting America and food for the people of Iraq.”

The Russian Prosecutor General’s office said a regional prosecutor in the southern city of Ufa, where Tadzhuddin made his call, warned him Friday that he was breaking a law against inciting ethnic or religious discord.

“The announcement of a holy war by the Muslims was helping fuel religious discord,” said the prosecutor’s statement, which was released Friday.

Tadzhuddin, who heads the Central Islamic Department of Muslims of Holy Russia, was warned that he would be brought to justice if he repeated the call, the statement said.

Ravil Gainutdin, the head of the Council of Russian Muftis, a group that rivals Tadzhuddin’s, has strongly condemned the call for a jihad.

“The Council of Russian Muftis notes with deep regret that among Russian Muslims there are those who seek not peace in Iraq, but a third world war,” he said in a statement.

He added that a Russian religious group had no right to raise money for weapons to be used against a country with which Russia is not at war.

An estimated 20 million of Russia’s 145 million population are Muslims. According to some analysts, the Kremlin’s tough opposition to the war in Iraq has stemmed partly from concern that the fighting could fuel Islamic extremism in Russia.

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