Putin finds allies in terror war: rabbis, muftis and patriarchs

moscow (ap) | Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the nation’s religious leaders last week to join the state’s efforts in the fight against terrorism and warned citizens against responding to recent terror attacks with religious intolerance.

“We must be united in the understanding of the terrorist threat,’ Putin told a council of religious leaders of various faiths on Wednesday, Sept. 29.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II immediately backed his call. “The state and religious groups must work hand in hand,’ Alexy said. “We need a true social partnership of religious organizations, the state and society.’

Putin urged Russians to be tolerant toward people practicing different religions and not let the recent attacks ignite religious and ethnic hatred. “Listening to criminals, venting our anger against terrorists on people of different religion and nationality is unacceptable, and in a multiconfessional and multinational country it is absolutely destructive,’ he said.

About two-thirds of Russia’s 144 million people are considered Russian Orthodox, and the sprawling Eurasian country also has large Muslim and Buddhist minorities. Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism are considered traditional religions by the government, and smaller faiths complain of discrimination.

Putin also defended his recent initiatives to change Russia’s electoral system, which critics warn would further reinforce the Kremlin’s grip on the country’s political life.

“You know we’ve made several decisions considerably strengthening the executive power, in particular in the southern federal region. … This is needed above all to destroy the very roots of terrorism in this region,’ he said.

The audience was largely sympathetic.

“I would like to express my full support to your decisive and in my view right steps in providing unity of our state and countering the terrorist threat,’ said Ismail Berdiyev, mufti of the Kabardino-Balkariya and Stavropol region.

He also suggested that all Russian Muslims should unite in one religious organization.

Russia’s chief Rabbi Berl Lazar defended Putin’s staunch refusal to negotiate with terrorists believed to be behind the recent deadly attacks. A series of attacks, including a school seizure and two plane bombings, killed more than 430 people in three weeks.

“Having a dialogue with terrorists is basically recognizing those who kill our children. We cannot allow that,’ Lazar said.