Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Moscow Faces Its Own Muslim-Buddhist Clash in Kalmykia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 4 – Russians like many other people around the world were horrified by Taliban destruction of Buddhist shrines in Afghanistan. Now, Russians are having to cope with a related case of Muslim contempt for Buddhist statues within the borders of their own country, one that is generating anger among Russia’s Buddhists and nervousness among its Muslims.

            So far, the actions of Kalmyk and Daghestani officials with regard to the incident appear to have calmed the situation. Indeed, Russian commentators are celebrating the good sense of both. But the incident shows just how close to the surface such tensions are and how easy it would be for them to get out of hand (nazaccent.ru/content/20117-urok-buddy.html).

            On April 1 – and some writers suggested that the whole thing began as an April Fool’s joke – a 22-year-old Daghstani boxer in the Kalmyk capital of Elista for a competition visited a local Buddhist shrine and was photographed hitting a revered statue of Buddha with his fists.  The photograph went viral on line and that night Kalmyks surrounded his hotel to protest.

            The Kalmyk police arrested him, and the Kalmyk authorities postponed the competition in which he was supposed to take part, with five teams from various republics being sent home, accompanied by Kalmyk militiamen. Officials in Elista and Makhachkala condemned the actions of the boxer but said that such bad behavior is to be found among some in every nationality.

            Their actions, the apologies of the coaches and parents of the man involved, and the fact that no one tried to minimize the issue or send the Daghestani boxer home to serve any punishment – he remains in jail in Elista – eliminated any chance that people on either side could suggest that the authorities were hiding something, Nazaccent.ru reported.

            That represents a definite step forward from earlier cases of this kind, the news agency said, adding that it may be the result of efforts by Russia’s Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs to provide immediate guidance to officials involved in clashes – although Nazaccent.ru acknowledged that the Agency has not yet confirmed that.


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