From Sat Apr 23 19:00:54 2005
Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2005 19:29:20 -0500 (CDT)
From: “Michael Givel” <>
Article: 210372
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Sociology in the service of Islamophobia, 24 April 2005

Both government officials and leaders of the Orthodox Church in the Russian city of Voronezh have deployed a new weapon in their campaign to block the rise of Islam—specially commissioned opinion polls clearly designed to inflame rather than simply measure public opinion. This use of polls is the latest in complicated saga about relations among the government, Muslims, and Orthodox hierarchs in that city. Some time ago, Voronezh Mayor Boris Skrypnnikov met with the Muslim leaders and agreed to the construction of a mosque ( Then a few weeks ago, Vyacheslav Agapov, a deputy of the city Duma who is against building a mosque, denounced that decision and provided the press with a copy of the original agreement with the mayor's signature on it. Initially, the mayor acknowledged that he had met with the Muslims. But then the secretary of the Voronezh eparchate of the Russian Orthodox Church said that his organization was opposed to the building of any mosque in Voronezh, and the local media reported that any such mosque would be built with Saudi money and that it would thus spread Wahhabism. After that, the mayor denied that he had ever approved the deal.

To measure public attitudes on this question, opponents of the construction of a mosque asked the Voronezh “Qaulitas” Institute of Public Opinion to carry out a specially designed poll (

And that agency asked 1003 adults in Voronezh three questions:

a.. First, respondents were asked “how do you feel about reports in the press that a mosque might be built in Voronezh with money from Saudi Arabia?” 54.6 percent said they were against it, 23.7 percent said they were indifferent, and 16.6 percent said they backed the idea.

b.. Second, those interviewed were asked, “Do you agree with the view that the construction of a mosque in Voronezh will lead to the activization of extremist tendencies of Islam?” 57.2 percent said yes, while 28.7 percent said no.

c.. And third, the pollsters inquired, “how do you feel about the activization of Islam in Voronezh?” 67.3 percent said they were negatively disposed toward that development, 2.6 percent said that they were neutral with regard to it, and 8 percent said they favored the activization of Islam there.

Not surprisingly, those opposed to the construction of a mosque view these results as confirmation that the residents of Voronezh do not want to see one built. But Muslims clearly view this poll as something else, as an effort to inflame public opinion against them in order to deprive them of their constitutional rights. The agency entitled its report on this poll “Sociology in the Service of Islamophobia” (, and argued that polls of this kind are not so much intended to measure public opinion but rather to “shape it” in ways that the authorities want. And considering the inflammatory way in which the questions were formulated, it is quite clear that this poll will have precisely that effect, not only making it impossible for the growing Muslim community in Voronezh to have their own mosque but also exacerbating relations between Christians and Muslims there and elsewhere as well.