Russia’s leading Muslim body says it has not called for a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics

Russia’s Islamic leaders have rebutted suggestions that they have forbidden Muslim athletes from competing at the Beijing Winter Olympic Games in protest at China’s treatment of its Uyghur population.

A document shared at the end of December by the ‘Global Imams Council’ Twitter account purportedly came from senior Islamic leaders who ‘banned’ Muslim athletes from appearing at the upcoming Games in Beijing.

“This event directly serves the interests of a tyrannical and oppressive regime that is directly responsible for the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Uyghurs,” the statement read. 

In a section under the title ‘Cc: Their Excellencies’, the document shared the names of senior imams from around the world, including Russian Grand Mufti Ravil Gainutdin.  

However, the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of the Russian Federation has said on its website that the message is ‘fake’.

“A document appeared on social media – a statement from a certain organization Global Imams Council (World Council of Imams), containing a call to boycott the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, scheduled for 2022,” read the response.

“The document states that it was signed by Mufti Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, as well as by the Supreme Mufti of a number of countries, which, of course, is a blatant lie and does not correspond to reality.

“It is noteworthy that after telephone conversations with the offices of the Supreme Mufti of Egypt Sheikh Shauki Allam, the Supreme Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina Hussein Kavazovich and others, it was reliably discovered that the spiritual leadership of these countries also had nothing to do with this document,” it added.

“The Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Russian Federation and the Council of Muftis of Russia officially declare that the chairman, Mufti Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, did not sign this false document. 

“The Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Russian Federation and the Council of Muftis of Russia consider this situation a provocation and ask the media not to disseminate false information!”

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The ‘Global Imams Council’ Twitter account has fewer than 700 followers but the message was shared by the much larger ‘World Uyghur Congress’ account.

The verified account shared the message as “an important step in the global resistance against the Beijing 2022 Games.”

The US is among the countries which have announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games, citing China’s human rights track record and allegations of abuse against its millions-strong Uyghur population, which is mainly based in the north-western region of Xinjiang.

Elsewhere, countries such as Russia have decried the boycott as pointless political posturing and have said the likes of the US, Canada and the UK are denigrating sport by using it to divide rather than unite.

READ MORE:
What you need to know about the Beijing Winter Olympics boycotts

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