Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
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#2 - JRL 7271
Anti-Muslim sentiment on rise in Russia: Rights groups
July 30, 2003

Russian human rights groups and Islamic organizations on Wednesday accused authorities of cracking down on Muslim believers following a Moscow suicide attack this month that killed 15 people.

Police have been detaining and questioning women wearing Muslim headscarves following the attack by two Chechen women on a Moscow rock concert, charged Islamic Committee president Geidar Dzhemal.

"Russia's recent attitude towards Muslims is moving towards the model of South Africa's apartheid regime," he told reporters.

"Women in Islamic headscarves are often forbidden from walking through public places - police stop them in the street to check their documents without any motivation," Dzhemal said.

Rights groups warned of a similar attitude, including arbitrary arrests, after Chechen rebels took people at a Moscow theatre hostage in October.

"We have been looking for an enemy for a long time and we have found one - any person who doesn't have a Slavic appearance," said Lyudmilla Alexeyeva, head of the Helsinki rights group's Moscow bureau.

Russian mistrust of people from the northern Caucasus - known derogatorily as "blacks" - has increased with the outbreak of the second war against separatist rebels in the mainly Muslim republic of Chechnya in October 1999.

Russia is home to some 20 million Muslims - around one inhabitant in seven.

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