‘Not all officials realise the importance of Islam’: Russia and the East start discussing the economy in detail
Delegates from 100 countries noted Tatarstan's contribution to the development of cooperation between Russia and the Islamic world
“The rapprochement of Russia and the Islamic world was largely facilitated by 'people's diplomacy', or rather, the foreign policy activity of true adherents of Islam who preserved these holy values in the country," participants of the meeting of the Russia-Islamic World Strategic Vision Group paid tribute to the first president of Tatarstan, Mintimer Shaimiev. Despite that Islam has long been considered a tolerant religion in Russia, it is the countries of the Muslim and Arab world that have not succumbed to Western pressure and are still focused on developing cooperation with our country, stressed the chairman of the group, President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov. Now, as Realnoe Vremya has found out, spiritual leaders are looking forward to a renaissance in economic cooperation with Muslim countries.
Kazan after the meeting in Jeddah
The XII meeting of the Russia-Islamic World Strategic Vision Group was held in Kazan on 20 May, which was largely timed to the celebration of the 1100th anniversary of the official adoption of Islam by Volga Bulgaria. Perhaps, for the first time in the history of Russian statehood, this historic event acquired the status of a federal celebration, and Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Marat Khusnullin, the chairman of the organising committee, approved a plan for the preparation and celebration of this date. Later, in honour of the jubilee anniversary, the foundation of the complex of the Cathedral Mosque was laid in Kazan.
The cream of the Islamic world — the muftis of the Muslim Spiritual Board of Russia, the Caucasus, Ingushetia, who represent about 70 million Muslims of the country, as well as religious leaders of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Sudan and others — arrived in Kazan for the meeting of the Russia — Islamic World Strategic Vision Group. In total, there are about 2 billion Muslims in the world, the participants noted.
Сhairman of the Russia-Islamic World Strategic Vision Group Rustam Minnikhanov, Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation, Chairman of the Organising Committee for the preparation and holding of celebrations dedicated to the 1100th anniversary of the official adoption of Islam by Volga Bulgaria, Marat Khusnullin, Secretary General of the OIC Ibrahim Taha, State Adviser of the Republic of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Mikhail Bogdanov, and other Russian and foreign officials, as well as religious figures: Mufti of Tatarstan Kamil khazrat Samigullin, Supreme Mufti, Chairman of the Central Muslim Spiritual Board Talgat khazrat Tadzhuddin, Chairman of the Muslim Spiritual Board of Russia Ravil khazrat Gaynutdin directly participated in the work of the meeting. In general, Kazan gathered about 100 delegates from all over the world.
Formally, the meeting was devoted to the Russian experience of preserving ethnic and cultural diversity, interethnic and interreligious harmony as a guarantee of strengthening civil identity. But against the backdrop of the unfolding economic sanctions against Russia, the perspective of the speeches of political leaders shifted towards criticism of the West, which has always been considered the antipode of the Islamic world.
But first of all, the president of Tatarstan expressed gratitude to the guests for many years of cooperation in establishing cooperation and maintaining dialogue. He recalled that at the end of the previous year, the Russia-Islamic World Strategic Vision Group held a meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
“The results of our meetings in Jeddah became an important contribution to the process of cooperation between Russia and Muslim countries, were positively evaluated in the Islamic world," said Minnikhanov.
The West is doing everything to shake interethnic and interfaith relations
Most of all, he put emphasis on criticism of the West. According to Minnikhanov, today Western countries are in a tough confrontation with Russia, unprecedented sanctions are being imposed:
“Tolerance widely promoted by the West turned out to be directed only for its inner circle. The collective West is trying to impose its values; to subjugate those who think differently.”
He said that Western countries are doing everything to destabilise the situation in Russia, primarily in the sphere of interethnic and interfaith relations. In response, Russia defends the right to its own values, advocates the preservation of a multipolar world and the diversity of cultures. He expressed gratitude for that most countries of the Muslim and Arab world did not succumb to pressure and “are still focused on developing cooperation with our country”.
This is confirmed by the participation of a large number of guests in the meeting. With great respect, the floor was given to the first president of Tatarstan, Tatarstan State Advisor Mintimer Shaimiev, who not only founded the group itself, but also personally engaged in the revival of historical monuments of Bolgar. He said that the republic has been preparing for today's historical event for many years: on the one hand, step by step, establishing friendly and business relations with the countries of the Islamic world, on the other hand, conducting deep archaeological research on the ancient land of Bolgar. Moreover, money was collected by all the people for the construction of the Muslim Kul-Sharif Mosque.
Mintimer Shaimiev recalled that in 1803 the first Muslim edition of the Koran was published in Kazan with a circulation of 1,500 copies.
“Now we can state with full confidence that our land is the birthplace of not only the very first, but also the largest printed Koran!” he noted.
But the beginning of a full-fledged dialogue between Russia and the Islamic states became possible after Russia joined the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in 2005 (before that, Vladimir Putin announced his intention to enter in 2003, while in Malaysia).
“This step, taken on Vladimir Putin's personal initiative, was very important for our country, it raised the status of our relations with the Islamic world to a fundamentally new level, expanded the scope of cooperation with the countries of the East and, in general, the scale of our international influence," Mintimer Shaimiev said.
Islam was considered a tolerant religion in the Russian Federation, but doomed to extinction
“The results of this active work are obvious," continued Mufti Ravil Gaynutdin, the head of the Muslim Spiritual Board of Russia.
The Muslims of Russia are treated with respect and kindness both in the countries of the Muslim world and in the Russian elite. Meanwhile, this was not always the case.
“Islam was considered a tolerant religion in the Russian Federation, but doomed to extinction. At the same time, it was believed in the Islamic world that Islam could not exist as a full-fledged spiritual tradition in a unitary state. But, thank Allah, the rapprochement of the positions of Russia and the Islamic world is proceeding well, although not as fast as we would like," he noted with regret.
Gaynutdin bitterly stated that there are still both objective and subjective obstacles in this process.
“For example, not all Russian officials realise the importance of Islam. We see how yesterday's critics of Islam left for Muslim countries en masse today, acquiring housing and business projects there," he noted, adding that before that not all Russian officials and public figures realised the importance of the countries of the Islamic world for our country.
According to him, the flight is due to that the Muslim world has turned out to be the only one who has not turned away from Russia. In the context of the changed political situation, he called for intensifying work with the Islamic world.
“This concerns the halal industry, creating conditions for Islamic banking and stimulating economic cooperation between Russia and the Islamic world," he listed, believing that the Muslim world is becoming “the main foreign market for Russia for many years to come”.
To do this, he considers it necessary to “create interdepartmental structures under the government of the Russian Federation aimed at achieving specific tasks”: “We are ready to provide experts to create an interdepartmental centre for digital currency under the government of the Russian Federation based on the principles of Islamic banking. For example, in these matters we lag far behind the governments of Western countries, which have outstripped us in the matters of Islamic investment and even in the construction of mosques in Russian cities.”
Nevertheless, according to him, the OIC is proud that the Muslims of Tatarstan and the whole of the Russian Federation are a dynamically developing community that is integrated into the world community.