All-Russia Muslim Conference condemns extremism and supports modernization

Ravil Gainutdin (RIA Novosti / Ruslan Krivobok)
Xenophobia is a bigger threat to Russia’s unity than problems in the North Caucasus, Ravil Gainutdin, Chairman of the Council of Muftis, has said.

­The growth of xenophobia, Islamophobia and chauvinism in Russian society is the most serious threat for all citizens, including Muslims, Gainutdin said. He was speaking at the Muslim Conference “Russia is our common home” in Moscow on Thursday. The forum is being attended by some 500 clergymen, public figures and businessmen from 70 regions.

Gainutdin condemned the action of nationalists staged in Manezhnaya Square late last year, explaining why, in his view, the bigger threat is coming “from Moscow” rather than the North Caucasus.  

However, terrorism, religious, and political extremism remain another big problem Russia is facing now, the mufti noted. “Muslims are the main target for terrorists both in the Caucasus and Russian cities,” Interfax quoted him as saying. Gainutdin stressed that imams, muftis and policemen often fall victim to terrorists in the republics of the North Caucasus.

According to the head of the Council of Muftis, after the terrorist acts in Moscow and the nationalistic actions in Manezhnaya Square, Russia has found itself between “terrorism and extremism on one hand, and on the other – neo-Nazism and chauvinism.” He went on to condemn the mass media for inciting fear and distrust towards Muslims. As for Russian courts which ban Islamic literature, they “have become an instrument in the hands of Islamophobes,” he stressed.

Muslims living in Russia are ready to contribute to the modernization of the country, Gainutdin said. He urged them to take greater responsibility for the future of the country and tackle such problems as alcoholism, drug addiction, civil passivity and corruption. Another problem is that the younger generation does not fully understand “what real patriotism is.”

Gainutdin suggested that the spiritual leaders of the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities join their efforts in saving youths “from mutual hatred, the cult of money, and a cultural vacuum.” He also proposed that the 700th anniversary of the adoption of Islam as an official religion of the Golden Horde be celebrated soon at the national level.

The conference being held in Moscow could actually contribute to more active participation of Muslim clergymen in fighting extremism in the North Caucasus.

The head of the Russian republic of Ingushetia Yunus-Bek Yevkurov stressed in February that some young people in the region do not trust their parents, elders and muftis, and prefer militant groups to them. Those “who do not know our customs and elementary aspects of religion become an authority for them,” he said.

Traditional Muslims were “reliable allies of Orthodox Christians, one of the pillars of the Russian state in the past,” and they remain such today, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin of the Russian Orthodox Church noted in September 2010. But nowadays, some mosques in Russia “are sometimes seized by individuals influenced by foreign extremist centers,” Chaplin said, citing leaders of traditional Muslims themselves.