- Viilma attended last year the European Muslim Forum (EMF) conference.
- Tatar Muslims have been living in Estonia since the Great Northern War.
- The mission of the EMF is, besides supporting the communities to promote Muslim culture and religion
The recently published yearbook of the Internal Security Service (ISS) contains a brief sub-chapter on the politicization and influencing activities of the Islamic communities. An attentive viewer can identify Archbishop Urmas Viilma of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church on the photograph illustrating the section.
Viilma says that he attended the EMF conference last summer and expresses his surprise over being included in the ISS yearbook this way. «This was a matter of elementary good neighborly communication,» the Archbishop says. «The Imam of the Estonian Muslim community Ildar Muhhamedshin invited me and I went there. We meet now and then – not very frequently. Maybe once in a couple of years or just like I meet with the chief rabbi of our Jewish community.»
Viilma explains that Tatar Muslims have been living in Estonia since the Great Northern War. As far as he knows, the oldest Muslim congregation would celebrate its 100th anniversary of activities soon. «Muslims have quite a long history in Estonia,» he says.
But what about the ISS and its yearbook? The publication states among other information that there are incidents in Europe of joining and institutionalization of Muslim communities in order to reduce fragmentation and increase their influence in the society. This is how Imam Ildar Muhhamedshin is related to the EMF, which was formed in 2018 and the mission of which is, besides supporting the communities, the promotion Muslim culture and religion and extending financial support to it.
The members of the EMF are the leaders of the Tatar and Caucasian Islamic communities in Russia, Belarus, the Balkan countries and the European Union. An important role in the forum is played by the heads of the Russian Islamic organization, who belong to the spiritual central administration of Russia’s Muslims, the administration of the assembly of muftis and the presidential cooperation council of religious associations, the ISS yearbook reads.
The EMF conference «Baltic states’ Muslims – yesterday, today, tomorrow» took place in Tallinn on August 27, 2021, timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of restoration of Estonia’s independence. The Russian media on the other hand claimed that the timing of the conference had been related to the 70th anniversary of the former leader of Chechnya Akhmat Kadyrov. The Imam of Estonia and the representative of the Swedish Muslim community were interviewed to the background of a poster depicting Kadyrov.
Viilma, who attended the conference, initially tells Postimees that he had not read the ISS yearbook and was not aware of its opinion if the conference. He adds that he had no impression of its close ties to Akhmat Kadyrov. «Frankly, I know nothing of it. I was invited to an international conference and I attended it. I did not and could not see anything political in it. But in itself it is good to know that by going there I earned a place in the ISS yearbook,» he says. Later, having read the article in the yearbook, the Archbishop sends the official invitation to the conference and the press release, which contain no references to Kadyrov or anything objectionable. «The ISS has not approached me or drawn my attention to it,» Viilma says.