“Such Cases” and the Civic Assistance Committee continue to dismantle the myths about migrants. Anthropologist Dmitry Oparin refutes the stereotypes of visitors from Central Asia and explains why halal cafes and crowds on the streets during Muslim holidays does not mean the Islamization of Russia.
I think, rather, there is some kind of trend for religious intensification. The popularity of Protestantism is growing, and the presence of Orthodoxy in the public space is increasing, and Islam is not far behind. So it is worthwhile to note that there is some general strengthening of religiosity among Russians, and this enhancement is mostly ceremonial or even formal.
Are all Central Asian migrants practicing Muslims? Obviously not. So can we say that it is Muslims who come to us? Muslim is first and foremost an identity. People come here with different “Muslim identities”, as well as no Muslim identity. Identity may appear and be actualized here, or it may not.
The sight of thousands of Muslims praying on the blocked streets during Kurban Bayram (Eid-al-Adha) and Uraza Bayram (Eid al-Fitr), the two main Muslim holidays, tells us nothing about the Islamization of the country. Many of those who come to mosques these days go to prayer just on these two days of the year. Muslims living in Russia have very different levels of religiosity. Someone goes to the mosque on on the holidays, on Fridays someone goes when he wants , some try every day to get into a mosque or a prayer house. The last person is in the minority.
Cafes and shops with halal foods is also not Islamization. People have daily practices and just everyday habits. If they buy food in halal stores or celebrate a birthday in an Uzbek cafe, this does not mean that they are, or will become, Muslim. I would compare the appearance of national cafes and shops not with the advent of prayer houses, but rather with the appearance of organic food stores. It is simply the diversification of everyday practices, which is culinary in this case.
For over 30 years, Committee of Civic Assistance has been helping migrants who find themselves in difficult situations. At the end of 2011, human rights defenders launched the Hate Crimes project where the organization provides free legal and humanitarian assistance to victims of violent hate crimes.