Russia Debates Niqab Ban Amid Concerns  of Extremism and Islamophobia

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Russia Debates Niqab Ban Amid Concerns of Extremism and Islamophobia

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Moscow (AsiaNews) – Russia is embroiled in a heated debate over a proposed ban on the Niqab, an Islamic veil covering the face except for the eyes, often associated with Wahabism. Valerij Fadeev, president of the Human Rights Council, has championed the ban, gaining support from deputies and opinion leaders who believe it is necessary to curb extremist tendencies among Muslims in Russia. However, the Ministry of the Interior has not provided any statistics to support these claims.

The proposal has divided Russia’s Muslim community. While religious leaders oppose restrictions on the Hijab, which leaves the face uncovered, the KPRF communists have submitted a draft law suggesting fines for any form of face covering. Fadeev has expressed frustration over the Niqab’s legality in Russia, noting that several Central Asian countries have already imposed such restrictions. Discussions are planned with traditional Islamic leaders and regional authorities.

Grand Mufti of Moscow, Ildar Aljautdinov, warned that a direct ban could provoke social tensions and potentially violate secular laws and constitutional rights guaranteeing religious freedom. United Russia deputy Ildar Gilmutdinov also opposed the ban, cautioning it could strain Russia’s relations with the Islamic world.

Kirill Kabanov, another Human Rights Council member, argued that the Niqab is not traditional in Russian Islam and suggested it is a provocation by radicals. He noted that even Central Asian countries have banned the Niqab and Paranja. KPRF deputy Mikhail Matveev called for an official stance from religious leaders on appropriate Muslim attire in Russia.

President Vladimir Putin’s 2012 speech against the Hijab, stating it is not part of Russia’s traditional culture or Islam, was recalled in the debate. Aljautdinov responded that a ban would be supported if it effectively curbs extremism but stressed the need for supporting data. Deputy Interior Minister Andrej Khrapov acknowledged the lack of clear signs of radicalization in Russian Islam.

Other religious leaders, such as Kamil Samigullin from Tatarstan, view the ban as an attack on Muslims, while Mufti of Volgograd, Kifakh Mokhamad, supports it, citing security concerns. Some suggest that regional governors should decide based on local traditions, emphasizing that the main issue is preventing Islamophobia and the repression of migrants rather than addressing an unproven threat of radicalism.