Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that traditional Islam is an essential component of Russia’s cultural code, and the Muslim Ummah is, without any reservation, a very important part of multiethnic Russia.
Meeting with the muftis of Russia’s Muslim centralized religious organizations and leadership of Kazan-based Bulgarian Islamic Academy Vladimir Putin emphasized the importance of developing Muslim theology in Russia, in particular for educating a new generation of muftis. He added that the age of the muftis today raises the issue of their replacement. “But a new generation should be educated relying on our own national basis”, President noted.
At the meeting Vladimir Putin also said that the cooperation of secular and Muslim higher education institutions within the framework of common programs brings Muslim education up to a new level and makes it fundamental.
The Muslim Ummah is an integral part of society in Russia. Muslims make Russian society more diverse and culturally multifaceted. At the same time, we need infrastructure for Muslims, in particular, educational institutions. Possibilities should be created for its development. People should have opportunities for learning new things and self-realization within the Muslim community.
Infrastructural development should meet the interests of the traditional Islam adherents who have always lived in Russia. Of course, the risks of the proliferation of radical ideas will remain. However, without educational institutions such risks will only be higher. In this environment, people without knowledge, without thorough professional training are more vulnerable to extremist influence, to the movements which are oriented towards radicalism and intolerance towards others instead of learning the religion and its doctrines.
Putin’s bet on enhancing state’s support of traditional Islam, its proliferation and educating people is a proactive game against radical Islamist ideas and activists nowadays representing a threat to the whole world and Russia in particular.
The existing risks are connected with the openness of borders and global communities’ vulnerability to the proliferation of various ideas, both religious and secular. But by no means all of them bring peace and prosperity.
The fact that the Muslim Ummah is facing the challenge of global radicalism once again emphasizes the necessity for state involvement. It is important to support traditional Islam adherents who share Russia’s interests as a multiethnic, multiconfessional state.
President also sends his statement abroad, especially taking into account that there have recently been serious trends toward rapprochement between Russia and certain Muslim nations. Nevertheless, it is more oriented at Russia’s Muslims who should be confident and calm in Russia as a common home.
As for foreign policy, in the time of global instability it is Islam which is under a serious extremist threat. For Russia, where Muslims compose around 20% of the total population, it is very important not just to follow the global process but also to create its own trends, set agenda, formulate the vision of the development of, first of all, the Muslims living in the country, but at the same time emphasize the possible avenues of cooperation in the Muslim world as a whole.
It should be noted how wisely Russia’s leader combined electoral campaign with the current political agenda. It is especially visible in the context of Russia’s actions in the Middle East and Syria in particular – not only from the point of view of the counter-terrorist operation but also from the perspective of Russia’s diplomatic efforts in managing crises and conflicts the Muslim regions. Russia should address these challenges as well.
Amid the electoral campaign, it is important for President to send messages to all social groups, promote dialogue with various parts of the Russian society. Russia’s Muslims represent a significant share of the electorate. Thus, it is important for Putin to confirm that the state puts their problems high on its agenda, follows processes developing in the community. Russia’s Muslims face specific problems and candidate Putin has his own vision of solving them. This is the pre-election message of the meeting.
Alexander Konkov – Rethinking Russia director.