Thursday 31 October 2019

Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries: Belarus

The republic of Belarus, an ex USSR state - then known as Byelorussia or Belorussia, is a dominant Christian country. Muslims have been living in the areas that now constitute present day Belarus since the 14th century. It was the the Grand Lithuanian prince Gedimin, who invited the Tatar Muslim from the Crimea and Golden Horde as guards of state borders. By the end of the 16th century over 100,000 Tatars had settled in Belarus and Lithuania.

The Tatars who follow Sunni Islam, lost their native language over time and switched mainly into Belarusian, Polish and Russian, and preferred to be called Belarusian Muslims. However, religious practice is still practiced in the Arabic.

After the independence of Belarus from USSR, the First All-Belarusian Congress of Muslims was held in 1994 and the Muslim Religious Community of the Republic of Belarus was founded. Dr.Ismail Aleksandrovich was made its head who still continues to hold his office till date.

Belarus, though have a very small Muslim population, approximately 45,000, it is the only country in Europe to have jailed a newspaper editor for publishing the Danish cartoons of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. On January 18, 2008, Alexander Sdvizhkov was jailed for three years for 'incitement of religious hatred'. An encouraging step was taken by the Belarus government when in 2007, member of Ahmadiya sect were banned from practicing their faith openly in the state of Belarus and given a similar status to other banned religious groups in the country.

The first mosques in Belarus began to be built in the 14th-15th centuries, when the first Tatars settled on our lands. Unfortunately, most Muslim temples have not survived as these were demolished under the USSR regime. 
Mosque in Iwye [Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / Author: Арцём Аблажэй]

One of the few authentic mosques is in Ivie, Grodno region. The mosque was built in 1884. It is a rectangular building with a five-edged primitive mihrab with a tent roof. The interior is divided into male and female halves with separate entrances. The mosque in Ivie was the only mosque in Belarus in Soviet times.
Minsk Mosque - Early 1900 Photo [Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Source: Ліхадзедаў У. Мінск. Падарожжа ў часе. Менск: Тэхналёгія, 2008 / Author: Unknown]

Until 1939 the Tatar mosque in Novogrudok had a Muslim school - mekteb. Also, mosques operate in Slonim, Smilovichi, Oshmyany, Lovchitsy, Molodechno and Minsk. From 1900 to 1902 a mosque was constructed in Minsk. However in 1962 it was destroyed by the Communists. On November 11, 2016 a replica of the mosque was opened in Minsk. Construction of the new mosque is financed not only by Belarusian Muslims, but also by people and organisations from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Russia.
Rebuilt Minsk mosque [Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Author: Homoatrox]

The Belorussian Muslims freely celebrate their religious festivals and observe the fasting in the month of Ramadan. On festivals, Muslims from all walks of life get together and celebrate the holy events with religious fervour and zeal.

Author's Note: The data for this post has been collected from the references as given below. If any one differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.
Belorussian Muslims celebrating Eid Al Adha 2016 [Photos above/below courtesy BelurusFeed]

Recently, there have been news of emergence of the radical Islam and in 2015, 20 Muslim Salafis were arrested. Although Muslims have lived in Belarus since the 14th century, blending in well. However, in recent years preachers from other states have been changing the nature of Islam in Belarus by infusing radical ideas, reports Belarus Digest. It is speculated that by arresting a group of Salafi Muslims, Belarus may be signalling to the West that it is a reliable partner in fighting terrorism. 

There are many videos on YouTube showing young Belorussians accepting Islam. The trendsetters are adding more Muslims in Belarus every now and then.
Watch a video below which was made on the eve of inauguration of Cathedral Mosque in Minsk by the Turkish President Erdogan and Lukashenko:

To know more about life of Muslims in other non Muslim countries, please visit our page: Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |
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