The motto of Crimea Volunteer Battalion composed of Muslim and non-Muslim former residents of the Russia-occupied peninsula is "We will return to Crimea!" (Image: slavic-islam.info)
Russian propaganda has sought to link any group Moscow doesn’t like with ISIS as a way of justifying its own position. Thus it has called the moderate Sunni opposition to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad part of ISIS. It has charged that Turkey is an ally of ISIS. And it has suggested that Muslims in Ukraine are part of ISIS as well.
Now, three leaders of Muslim groups both indigenous and from abroad in Ukraine that have been fighting against Russian aggression there have issued a rejoinder. They point out that since the Crimean Anschluss, Moscow has sought to “discredit” Muslims fighting for Ukraine in the eyes of the international community.
Earlier, Russian outlets presented these fighters as “Nazis;” now, they are portraying Muslim volunteers fighting on the side of Ukraine as connected to ISIS. In addition to discrediting Ukraine in the West, this is also designed to make Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey less supportive of Ukraine and “the oppressed Muslim peoples of the Russian empire.”
“We Muslims who are in the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) in one form or another declare that we not only do not represent ISIS in Ukraine but also remind everyone that the leaders and propagandists of ISIS (for example, the well-known Abu Jihad) at one time conducted a real campaign against the participation of Muslims in the ATO on the side of Ukraine.”
Moreover, the authors say, “because we took the side of Ukraine instead of emigrating to ISIS and joining them, their ideologues openly called us traitors to the faith and denied us the right to call ourselves Muslims.”
“Anyone acquainted with the ideology of ISIS knows well that they consider the supporters of Ichkeria and those who fight in the armies of non-Muslim states their enemies.” But as for us, “we have supported the European choice of Ukraine as something that guarantees the right to free religious life of its citizens, including Muslims, from the terror which is taking place in totalitarian Russia” and Russian-occupied Crimea.
They continue: “The participants of the liberation movements of Muslim peoples of the Russian empire support Ukraine” and they cannot and do not have any relationship with ISIS for that group “rejects the possibility of life of Muslims in non-Muslim states and of the struggle for national interests.”