Monday, December 04, 2006

Dead Russian Spy a Deathbed Convert to Islam

Over the weekend, I read that Litvinenko had converted to Islam. And today this rumor is confirmed.

It sure adds a ton of wrinkles as to who could have had intent to harm him. And why. Or even what he was up to. And who was funding him. Apparently, he was close to Islamist Chechan Muslims.
Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian intelligence agent poisoned in London, is to be buried according to Muslim tradition after converting to Islam on his deathbed.

The spy's father, Walter Litvinenko, said in an interview published today that his son - who was born an Orthodox Christian but had close links to Islamist rebels in Chechnya - made the request as he lay dying in University College Hospital.

"He said ’I want to be buried according to Muslim tradition’," Mr Litvinenko told Moscow's Kommersant daily.

"I said, ’Well son, as you wish. We already have one Muslim in our family - my daughter is married to a Muslim. The important thing is to believe in the Almighty. God is one.’"

Like the rest of Europe, Russia, too, is facing a huge upsurge in its Muslim population. Unlike Western Europe, however, the majority of this population is native to Russia and states of the former Soviet Union.

Russia is in the midst of startling transformation. Islamic faith is thriving across the country. If current trends continue, experts say, more than half of Russia's population will be Muslim by mid-century.

Few expect it will be an easy transition. Tensions are already high between the country's ethnic Russian population and the diverse group of nationalities that make up the Muslim community. Inter-ethnic violence is on the rise and extreme nationalist groups are gaining influence.

A backlash is already underway. Attacks on mosques are not uncommon and in September an imam in the southern city of Kislovodsk was shot dead outside his home. During days of rioting in August, angry mobs chased Chechens and other migrants from the Caucasus region out of the northwestern town of Kondopoga...

According to the CIA World Factbook estimate, Russia's overall fertility rate is 1.28 children per woman, far below what is needed to maintain the country's population of about 143 million.
Muslim Russians, meanwhile, are bucking the trend, with some communities averaging as many as 10 children per woman. The Central Asian states that traditionally send large numbers of immigrant workers to Russia also have much higher birth rates...

Since 1989, Russia's Muslim population has increased by 40 per cent to about 25 million. By 2015, Muslims could make up a majority of Russia's conscript army and they could account for one-fifth of the country's population by 2020...

If trends continue for the next 30 years, people of Muslim descent will outnumber ethnic Russians, says Paul Goble, an expert on Islam in Russia and research associate at the University of Tartu in Estonia.


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