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Analysts say Russia’s Muslims profess moderate European Islam, condemn radicals

September 24, 2015, 17:17 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
Muslims praying inside the newly restored Moscow Cathedral Mosque during celebrations of Eid al-Adha

Muslims praying inside the newly restored Moscow Cathedral Mosque during celebrations of Eid al-Adha

© AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

MOSCOW, September 24. /TASS/. Tens of thousands of Moscow’s Muslims on Thursday gathered in the newly re-opened Central Mosque - the largest in Russia - to celebrate Eid al-Adha holiday (known in Russia as Kurban Bairam). Many regard this is a fresh reminder that Russia has never seen religious wars and that relations among all religions remained tolerant and calm.

"Traditional Islam is an integral part of our country’s spiritual life," President Vladimir Putin said at the ceremony of re-opening the Central Mosque, which remained closed for repairs for the past ten years. Putin said that modern Russia’s Muslim clerics were bravely resisting extremist propaganda by recruiters from the terrorist organization calling itself the Islamic State and working very hard to foster inter-ethnic and inter-religious accord.

According to different estimates, Russia is a home to about 15 million Muslims. They account for a majority of the population in seven of Russia’s 85 territories - Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachai-Cherkessia.

The director of the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Valery Tishkov, says the key feature of Russia’s Islam is its europeanized, moderate nature, sometimes called as Jadidism. "One of the key features of Russia’s variety of Islam, which has been professed since the 7th century, is that it implies European education of youth and does not prohibit inter-ethnic marriages or obliges women to wear hijabs (headscarfs)," said Tishkov, Russia’s former nationalities minister.

"Also, the 15 million Russian Muslims follow the Islamic tradition, but they are not necessarily firm believers. People in Russia’s Muslim republics in the Caucasus are more religious than ethnic groups on the Volga River - the Tatars or the Bashkirs, most of whom are agnostics. Nevertheless, mosques in Russia number thousands. In Dagestan alone there are several hundred of them," Tishkov said.

He recalled that Russia had 114 officially registered educational establishments, about 6,000 medreses (schools) for beginners, where children study the Quran and history and get the basic ideas of customs and traditions adopted in the Muslim world. "In other words, Russia, a country that is a secular state by its Constitution, is witnessing restoration of the authorities’ tolerant attitude to the traditional religions after the Soviet era of persecution of believers and atheistic propaganda," Tishkov said.

Russia’s leading expert on oriental affairs, Georgy Mirsky, said that in contrast to some European Union’s member-countries, where nationalists now and then raided Muslim communities, nothing of the sort could be observed in Russia.

"The worst threat to young Muslims in both Russia and in Europe comes from attempts to recruit them into the terrorist organization calling itself the Islamic State. Amid soaring unemployment and low incomes many young Muslims yield to the calls for vowing allegiance to the banner of a worldwide Caliphate. Muslims number a total of one and a half billion around the world. Should at least one percent of them agree to join the Islamic State, there may follow a war of civilizations. The world community’s task is to prevent it," Mirsky told TASS.

The first deputy chairman of Russia’s Muslim Board, Damirkhazrat Mukhetdinov, acknowledges the risk of young people’s conversion to radical Islam does exist.

"In the era of modern computer technologies and social networks young people whose potential is untapped and social problems unresolved often set eyes on utopian forms of world order, for instance, the delusion of taking everything away from the rich, distributing the wealth among everybody else and living the wealthy life of a rich oil exporting country. The task of our muftis is to use the mass media and sermons in mosques to instruct Muslim youth in the basics of Islam, such as patience, peace and calm of one’s mind and soul and creative endeavor," Damirkhazrat told TASS.

Russia’s Muslim board is currently working on several government-supported programs for budget-financed university training of experts on Islam, construction and restoration of mosques and research and publishing activities.

"These programs initiated by the Muslim public have met with support from the authorities," Damirkhazrat said.

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