A significant part of the 47 million population of Ukraine live in the Crimean peninsula, in the East Donbas region (Khazan Tatars) near the Russian border. Muslims represent 7% of the population of the country, especially in Kiev and also in various other cities.
Ukraine is one of the few countries with a zero adult illiteracy rate. The cultural conception of Ukraine harbors no hostility toward Islam. But Islam is still insufficiently well known. The reason for that ignorance is the fact that the country spent long years under the yoke of the communist Soviet regime and the way that groups opposed to Islamic have made special efforts to blacken its name.
The people of Ukraine made the acquaintance of Islam many years ago, but as a result of the pressure from the communist regime, they were forced to turn away from Islam and hide their real thoughts. Muslims were forced to migrate to surrounding countries. People holding opposed ideas burned and destroyed Muslims’ homes and turned mosques into night clubs or bars. Muslims were afraid to keep the Holy Qur’an in their homes.
They began keeping the Qur’an hidden in their homes in order to avoid being caught by the communists.
After Ukraine won independence, however, the anti-Islamic policies in the countries failed. Muslims in today’s Ukraine are free to worship as they wish. Those calling people to Islam, Turkish or Arab, are not prevented by the state. Islamic societies that have opened up since 1994 serve Muslims and Islam and persist in their calls. The founding of Islamic universities and teaching of Islamic scholarship are supported in the country.
A ceremony attended by Ukraine Mufti Ahmed Tamim recently, saw the laying of the foundations for the first mosque in Kiev, to the accompaniment of Muslims’ prayers. Sheikh Ahmed Tamim described the foundation laying ceremony for the minaret as a historic occasion. “This is an important day for us,” he said. “Because we have laid the foundations for the first mosque in Kiev. This is an important date, not just for us, but for all the Muslims of the world.” Tamim went on to say that work on the mosque dome was continuing, and that it was especially significant that the laying of the mosque foundations coincided with the Holy Birth Week celebrations being marked in Turkey and across the world. The mufti concluded: “May the first mosque in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, be a bridge of friendship and dialog between countries and nations, and a place of communication and unity.”