Damir Mukhetdinov: ''If we want to have conflicts, let our pupils be taught the basics of only one religion''
An Islamic conference took place in Kazan: answer to introduction of an Orthodox subject at school, birthplace of Islamic studies and echo of a Grozny fatwah
The sixth international forum Islam in Multicultural World took place in the capital of Tatarstan. Apart from ''eternal'' topics of such meetings (traditional Islam, radicalism, religious education, etc.), participants of the meeting arose new problems as well – attempts to introduce Orthodox education at school, Kazan Eastern studies, dialogue with takfirists and the famous Grozny fatwah (Editor's Note: fatwah is a a legal pronouncement in Islam). A correspondent of Realnoe Vremya also visited the conference.
Religious education at school
The sixth international forum Islam in Multicultural World: Interreligious Dialogue and Radicalism Prevention started in Kazan on 18 December. The conference is taking place in the Islamic Education Development Resource Centre of the Kazan Federal University. It has been serving as a site for speeches and scientific discussions between scientists, Muslim Spirituality representatives and state workers for 6 years (since 2011). Moreover, it was Islamic during the first years. About 150 delegates from Russian and overseas cities came to the sixth forum.
Journalists managed to talk to some important speakers several minutes before the event. In particular, the first deputy chairman of the Muslim Spirituality Directorate of Russia, member of the Civic Chamber of Russia Damir Mukhetdinov expressed his opinion about the initiative of the Russian Orthodox Church to introduce Orthodox Culture as a school subject, which found its both supporters and opponents. He admits such news is of concern to him.
Hazrat Damir reminded that an attempt to introduce Basics of Orthodox Culture was made several years ago. According to him, mufti Ravil Gainutdin headed the movement of Russian Muslims and stated that it's impossible to impose only one religion in a state that has many religions.
''If we want to have conflicts, misunderstanding, human rights violation, let our pupils be taught the basics of only one religion. After long debates, the Russian Orthodox Church heard us and the voice of other religions (Hebrews, Buddhists and Christians), and a course with six modules was introduced. Pupils could choose,'' Mukhetdinov emphasised.
He was indignant that religious dignitaries declared that they lived in a secular country, that is to say, that was equidistant from all religions (but not atheistic). At the same time, one religion created and is introducing its culture and religion in different places as an experiment.
''I have a question: why were all institutes and sites created if we, 25 million Muslims, were thrown overboard?'' the Muslim cleric was indignant. ''We were not invited to talk, to discuss, to offer. It was not just an initiative that came from the Russian Orthodox Church. It was created in a close cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science. It is very important that our Orthodox brothers hear our message: we are not against religion at school, we are against violating the rights of another group. It would be pleasant for us to at least participate in the creation of these programmes, books, offer in the republics where Muslims are the majority of the people. So they will have an alternative and be able to choose Basics of Muslim Culture.''
In his opinion, the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union dissolved because religious and national rights of citizens were not considered. He also told that he received complaints from residents of Moscow, Kursk and Smolensk Oblasts where pupils' rights were violated when they were forced to attend the class. If not, they would get a bad mark or be considered as absent.
''We are preparing several initiatives. We will draw attention of the heads of our country, Ministry of Education and Science. It will be a big mistake if we go back to the discussion that was held 10 years ago when we introduced the basics of our traditional cultures or the rests of two secular modules,'' he resumed.
Birthplace of Eastern studies
In addition to quite stale topics of traditional Islam, radical movements, interreligious dialogue, Russian Islamic education, opposition to extremism and terrorism, ISIS (DAESH) banned in Russia, the delegates arose questions that had not been discussed a lot. For instance, vice-rector of KFU Linar Latypov paid attention to a study of Islam in Russia. The scientist reminded that the first Kazan School of Islamic Studies opened in 1807. The 210 th anniversary of this event will be celebrated next year. Several scientific events will be dedicated it to.
His idea was developed by the head of the Department of Turkology of the Erevan State University (Armenia) Alexander Safaryan who called the Kazan university a birthplace of Eastern studies in Russia.
''We, experts in Eastern studies of the post-Soviet space, are all grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the Kazan university,'' the Armenian professor paid the Kazan people a compliment. ''I gave a low bow to great men of this university. The first department of the Armenian language was opened in the 40s of the 19 th century thanks to them.''
Moreover, he remembered a curious episode of his life. When he participated in a congress of Turkologists from Russia, Europe, Asia in Turkey several years ago, there was a question: which language should they speak? It turned out that Russian united all experts. And the meeting was held on Pushkin and Turgenev's language.
''Unfortunately, our many colleagues are wasting so much energy to forget the Russian language that they are tired and don't have money to learn English,'' he joked. At the same time, he admitted he studied Musa Jalil's verses in Armenian language classes. Continuing praising Kazan and Moscow, Safaryan wished the creation and publication of a new anthology of the Tatar literature in Armenian.
''Lunch break'' fatwah
The echo of the Grozny fatwah was also mentioned. It should be noted that a theological conference where many Muslim activists of Russia including mufti of Tatarstan Kamil Samigullin took part was held in the capital of Chechnya in August. As a result, a kind of fatwah about real Muslims and sects was signed. Representatives of the Russian Council of Muftis who left the event one day before refused to sign it.
The document caused many reproaches not only among Russian Muslims but also abroad. Supporters of the decision in Grozny meant traditional Islam and challenges that the Russian Muslim community was facing. Opponents said such ''Kadyrov's'' fatwah can be a tool to put pressure on unwanted religious people who don't suit ''traditional'' patterns of the muftiate. Consequently, the council created its own ''full'' fatwah.
Deputy head of the Presidential Apparatus of Tatarstan and director of the Tatarstan President's Department on Internal Affairs Alexander Tretyakov who was present at the forum stated that such debates around the Grozny fatwah prove that Muslims are divided, and there is no single centre.
Mukhetdinov, in turn, presented his argument: the unity of the Muslim community means a spiritual affinity, not a unity in all theological and philosophical questions.
''Otherwise, our ''Islam'' can be limited to the only correct opinion of some sheikh, philosopher or political activist,'' Hazrat Damir said. ''Is not it one of the key characteristics of takfir? In an intellectual dialogue with takfirists, it is necessary to cut the ground from under their feet, which means to turn from the exclusionary understanding of Islam to pluralistic.''
He thinks that a renovation (Jadidism) is the panacea for solution of such problems. He said that the Quranic humanism, which was mastered by Gainutdin's workers, was a suitable site.
''We admit that other projects are also possible. It all needs to develop within scientific discussions, not signing of fatwah during a lunch break on the sly and announcing that the truth is in the last point. In addition, it is necessary to consider both the Islamic tradition and modern Islamic studies,'' the deputy chairman of the Muslim Spirituality Directorate of Russian expressed his opinion.