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27 Dec, 2008 09:41

Church bells strike bum note with Muslims

The Muslim community in Russia's Nizhny Novgorod region is opposing plans to include church bells in a proposed new regional anthem. Local authorities had earlier set a competition to compose an anthem for the region.

The work is still being composed and officials say the last thing they want to do is to hurt people's feelings.

The Muslim community wanted the regional governor to change some of the rules of the contest. Using the sound of church bells was mandatory and Muslim leaders thought this alienated other ethnic and religious groups.

“There should be no political or religious themes in the anthem. It should be something that uplifts people and brings them together. I think including religion goes against this.” Said Gayaz Zakirov, spiritual leader of the region’s Muslims.

The national anthem contains church bells, which are seen as a sign of Russian tradition as much as a sign of Orthodox woship.

“The tradition of bellringing is a very ancient tradition, dating from Old Testament times, which was adopted by the Orthodox Church,” said Orthodox priest Igor Pchelintsev.

The authorities have now decided to scrap the competition and hire a professional composer instead. Hopefully, the end result will be something that all sides can agree on.