In a special statement carried by Russian media August 30 and 31, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II expressed concern over the plans of the newly-created Union of Russia’s Muslims to nominate candidates for the Duma. Aleksii noted that the Russian Orthodox Church stays out of elections, urged the Muslim clergy to do likewise, and cautioned that denominational involvement in the campaign could only exacerbate political tensions and add to them a religious dimension. But URM leader Nafigullah Ashirov told Interfax August 31 that the Union plans to maximize Muslim voter turnout, to enter some Islamic clerics in the elections, and to support candidates of any faith or ethnicity who promote equality among all religious denominations. URM held its constituent congress last week, attended by representatives from 58 Russian regions and delegates from several Islamic countries. This is the second Islamic organization to announce its participation in Russia’s elections. The first was the fundamentalist movement Nur, led by religious militant Haidar Jamal.
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