Muslim leaders in the southern Russian city of Voronezh have been asked by police to provide information on practicing Muslims in the region, a local Islamic group told RIA Novosti on Thursday.
The Local Muslims' Religious Organization in Voronezh said police asked for information on the number of people practicing the Islamic faith, including among the native population, the sources of finance for their organization and places where they conduct prayers.
The police request was issued at the end October by the city's sixth police directorate. The police also visited the organization on two subsequent occasions.
"Our leaders told them we don't have the right to provide this information to the security services, because of paragraphs 5, 6, 7 of Article 3 of the Federal Law on Freedom of Conscience and of Religious Associations. It says that 'No one is obliged to disclose their relation to religion, their belief or refusal to believe in a religion, their participation or non-participation in religious services, religious orders or ceremonies, in particular religious organizations for the study of religion,'" the organization's representative said.
A similar request for information was also sent to the Tambov Muslims' organization, according to a RIA Novosti source.
The Voronezh police said the request was in line with the law on conducting investigations.
"The police have the right to gather such information. There is nothing secret that believers in Islam need to cover up, for example the number of people in a group. There is no intrusion into private life here," a Voronezh police spokesperson said.
Muslims in Voronezh contacted the local authorities in 2009 requesting that an area of land be set aside for the construction of a mosque. Having received no reply, a year later local believers took the issue to the regional administration, but the issue has still not been resolved.
VORONEZH, November 11 (RIA Novosti)