We are patriots of Lithuania – head of Tatar community

Tatars cemetery in Lithuania

“When it comes to the greater share of us, as far as I know the community, I see no problems and I see nothing wrong. The majority are indeed patriots of the country. And if there are individual members – let institutions do their job,” Jakubauskas told BNS the next day after Lithuania’s intelligence institutions issued a report about Russia and Muslims abroad aiming to boost their influence on Lithuania’s Tatars.

“If Lithuania needs defense, we will always be there,” he added.

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Lithuania’s State Security Department said that Russia was very much interested in having foreign Tatar communities represented by persons who favor the Russian annexation of the Crimea peninsula. The Western world accuse Russia of ever-escalating repressions of the Tatars living in the annexed Crimea.

According to the report, initiatives are currently developed to undermine the influence of some current leaders of Lithuania’s Tatars and create new alternative organizations of local Tatars.

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Romas Jakubauskas, the head of the Spiritual Center of the Lithuanian Sunni Muslims, told BNS frequent attempts to revise the traditions of Lithuania’s Muslims or influence people have been reported since Lithuania regained independence in 1990.

“There have been infiltration attempts by various types of sects, the attempts date back to the birth of independence. However, we, as Sunni Muslims, are a traditional religious community with a few centuries of traditions who have always been loyal citizens,” he added.

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Amid rising tensions across Europe over radical Islam, the Muslim leader in Lithuania says he has not observed any radical sentiments in the local Muslim community.

“Thank God, we do not have or notice these things, and it is something to be happy about. There may have been some individual attempts or persons, however, this is nothing going on in the open. Of course, these things are not done openly,” he added.

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Lithuania’s intelligence said it had registered last year failed attempts by Muslims from abroad to influence Lithuania’s Muslim community and change the traditions of Tatars. Jakubauskas said he was not aware of such instances, which can only be defined by intelligence services.

According to the latest census of 2011, over 2,700 Tatars lived in Lithuania at the time, with more than half of professing Sunni Muslim religion.

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The first Tatars arrived in Lithuania as allies of Lithuania’s Great Duke Gediminas to help in fighting the Teutonic Order in 1319.

The second wave of Tatars arrived in the 1396-1397 period when 40,000 soldiers arrived in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and were accommodated in the castle of Lida, which is now part of Belarus.

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In the 16th and 17th centuries, Tatars mainly came to Lithuania from the Crimean Khanate.

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