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Georgian gov't attempts to divide Muslim minority

Source : Agencies | 20 Jan 2014

The authorities in the Caucasian country of Georgia has caused controversy among Georgian Muslims by appointing two muftis, thus dividing the Muslim minority in the country to eastern and western religious authorities.

Until recently, Jamal Paksadze was the mufti of all the Muslims in Georgia, after being elected in an open ballot. However, on January 9, Lasin Aliev was appointed as the mufti of the Muslims in eastern Georgia, limiting Paksadze’s authority to the Muslims in the west of the country.

The decision was made by the Administration of Muslims of All Georgia, which was set up by the government in 2011 to represent the Muslim community. However, the Georgian Muslims’ Union, a grass-roots Muslim organization, slammed the move.

Tariel Nakaidze, the head of the Georgian Muslims’ Union, said the decision was made by members of the Administration of Muslims of All Georgia who have no connection to the mosque.

"It turns out that the government doesn’t trust the Muslim community and tries to let people under its control found an organization which it will control easily,” Nakaidze explained.

The Administration of Muslims of All Georgia has already aroused suspicion among the ethnic Azeri Muslims in the country, who have boycotted the governmental body.

In total, it is believed that as much as one fifth of Georgia’s 5 million-strong population is Muslim, although official figures state less than this. Most live along the borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan, and consist of both ethnic Georgian and ethnic Azeri Muslims.