Ramazan Abdulatipov: “I don’t deal with Dagestan any more. It is very far from Mecca”

The special envoy of the Russian Federation at OIC on Islamic finance, functionaries’ slowness, the status of Russia and ‘grandmother' Eve’s grave

Ramazan Abdulatipov: “I don’t deal with Dagestan any more. It is very far from Mecca”
Photo: Timur Rakhmatullin

Special envoy of the Russian Federation to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Ramazan Abdulatipov became the headliner of the 5th session of Russia — Islamic World Strategic Vision Group, which was in Ufa, and delivered a speech there. The former governor of Dagestan answered Realnoe Vremya’s questions during the forum. In the talk with our correspondent, the ex-head of Dagestan explained why Moscow was interested in reforming the OIC, complained about Russian ministers ignoring important meetings with colleagues from Islamic countries and refused to discuss the performance of the new administration of the highland republic.

“We artificially restrict Russia and its regions’ development

Mr Abdulatipov, the introduction of Islamic banking to the financial system of Russia was raised at the session. Why does the integration take so much time?

Islamic finance requires another system, immediately a question about interest and so on arises. I will note that the Islamic Development Bank and the Central Bank of Russia were in contact. But, it didn’t go farther than this contact. If we are talking about democracy, market economy, it is necessary to give economic structures a chance to take advantage of opportunities, resources. While we artificially restrict Russia and its regions’ development.

Could Dagestan or Chechnya become a platform for this?

Any of our republics could become it — Chechnya, Tatarstan, Dagestan. But this issue should be resolved not somewhere in the regions by at the level of the Central Bank of Russia. I’ve recently met with the director of the Islamic Development Bank. They are ready to cooperate with Russia in many programmes. We expressed the Russian Ministry of Education’s proposal even in education: they want to teach people in Russia at the expense of the Islamic Bank. Everything develops very slowly because functionaries’ salary doesn’t depend on whether they work well or bad. This is why everybody works as one’s conscience dictates.

To become a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the country must have 50% plus one person of Muslims. We have a way to go there. Secondly, the status of observer doesn’t lose to the status of member of the organisation if one works a lot

Is Russia interesting in changing its status at the OIC?

What changes can there be?

To become its full member, not an observer.

Membership is good, but it has principles and rules. To become a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the country must have 50% plus one person of Muslims. We have a way to go there. Secondly, observer status doesn’t lose to member status of the organisation if one works a lot. There will be a meeting of social development ministers soon, in December. We haven’t managed to take any of our ministers to the ministerial conference with 57 countries that participate in it over the years of being at the OIC. There is positive experience there, including social, cultural, information. The Muslim world isn’t the one described in the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, the Muslim world is modernising. Even Saudi Arabia created technological industrial sites in many areas, it masters the latest information systems. It is necessary to cooperate a lot.

You said in your speech that Russia was interested in reforming the OIC to obtain the status of its full member. In other words, do you want the power of observers to be expanded?

It isn’t an inferior status. We have what we have. We just need full-fledged participation in all events. What’s the difference between member and observer? We don’t vote when decisions are made. But we should have an opportunity to participate in preliminary speeches. In 2015 when the session was in Astana, observers’ power was reduced. And now we are working to change the regulation. A number of countries, particularly Turkey, Bangladesh are for empowering.

A lot turns on our activity. One thing is to call one a member, another thing is how he works. The work must be effective. And if you don’t work, no status will help you. We joined the OIC in 2005. But the Soviet Union was one of the best friends, partners of the Islamic world. In 2020 we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of decolonisation. Who initiated the decolonisation? The Soviet Union. We have a completely different experience. The West and East are completely different formats. This is why we have one advantage. There were tens of developing countries that didn’t join it. Today Azerbaijan chairs its area, it was elected. It is important that we be active. I am just offering, while it is up to other people to make a decision. There was organised a visit of the OIC secretary general to Russia: he had very good meetings with Lavrov, Matviyenko, Mufti Ravil Gaynutdin. In other words, there are opportunities for work, we just should assert ourselves in this world. Who will do this will become a member. While the rest… I don’t want to speak abusively.

Russian Islam is where people sincerely pray to God and lead an honest life. Good manners rank first in Islam. What if we dethrone each other, gossip about each other, fight, what a centre can we talk about? Sometimes in Russia there are more mosques than Muslims. One should think about it

“Look at how it is in Kazan, Ufa…”

It is often claimed in Bashkiria (and Rady Khabirov said about it) that Ufa was the centre of Russian Islam. Tatarstan speaks more about Bolgar, Dagestan does about Makhachkala and Derbent. Where is this centre?

The centre of Islam is in Mecca and Medina.

What about the Russian centre?

Russian Islam is where people sincerely pray to God and lead an honest life. Good manners rank first in Islam. And if we dethrone each other, gossip about each other, fight, what a centre can we talk about? Sometimes in Russia there are more mosques than Muslims. One should think about it. Moreover, we have leaders who supported this trial in the 1990s together with the Russian Orthodox Church when we were confronted with each other. Once the Aleksandr Nevsky Cathedral stood instead of the Government House in Makhachkala. As a governor of the republic, I built a church on the right of the government’s building and a mosque on the left. There is plenty of such examples. Look at how it is in Kazan, Ufa, all this is symbols.

Moreover, Islam is a religion that doesn’t threaten anybody. But how is it showed? You read Mecca Declaration adopted on 30 May 2019. It is a unique document. There was Mecca Declaration under Prophet Muhammad that says about relationships between all religions. In this document, it is prohibited to pronounce even a “conflict of civilisations”. If we are dictated by such theories, indeed, there will be a clash of civilisations. Who is our forefather? Adam. Do you know where Eve’s grave is? It is in the city of Jeddah (Saudi Arabia). Jeddah means ‘grandmother’. So come to see me in Jeddah, I will take you to both the grandmother and grandfather.

You remembered your management of Dagestan. How do you assess Artyom Zdunov’s performance as the premier of the republic?

I don’t deal with it anymore. It is very far away from Mecca, Jeddah.

What’s the standpoint of the OIC concerning the state of Muslims (Uyghurs in particular) and “re-education camps” in China?

This issue is raised, discussed from time to time. It requires additional examination.

By Timur Rakhmatullin. Author’s photos
Bashkortostan