‘We are glad that Muslim countries haven’t follow the lead of the global Cerberus — the USA’

How Muslim businesses from Tatarstan managed to establish supplies from Europe to Russia through Turkey and the Arab world

Under the conditions of sanctions pressure on Russia and disrupted logistics chains with European countries, many domestic companies had to rebuild supply channels and their businesses. However, Tatarstan Muslim entrepreneurs managed to establish relations with trading partners abroad already in the first months of their work. How it was possible to restore ties with the outside world, what prospects our country has for cooperation with Arab states, and how the Islamic finance market is developing — the president of the Association of Muslim Entrepreneurs of Russia, Aydar Shagimardanov, tells in the author's column for Realnoe Vremya.

Parallel import chains

With the introduction of sanctions against Russia, all logistics chains built over many years have been disrupted. But we managed to restore them literally at the very beginning, in March-April 2022. Basically, all flows go through Turkey, also Iran, the UAE and a little through China. For example, previously the company purchased components in European countries, now it cannot do it directly. With the help of our connections, we have established another chain. Turkish companies buy the necessary goods, then they reissue and repackage everything at their factories. Further, this European product is labelled “Made in Turkey”. And this was positively served by the representative offices we opened in European countries. These are our contacts established many years before the coronavirus and many years before the imposition of sanctions. We are talking about electronics, and about the supply of engines, other components and much more.

Why can't I voice specific names of companies and their specific activities? Because there is really serious sanctions pressure. These parallel import chains that pass through Turkey and other countries are illegal for Europe, so any naming of names will cause the destruction of these chains, which we would not like.

Another important issue that has to be solved is the export of Russian goods to European countries and to America, bypassing sanctions. As soon as the borders began to close, and European countries, so to speak, began to turn away from our goods in a predatory way, we very quickly found ways to solve this problem. We needed so-called transshipment bases in Turkey.

For example, a company from Tatarstan has supplied certain products to Poland for many, many years, and recently, due to sanctions, all chains have been disrupted.

The Polish company says that it would be happy to continue buying Tatarstan products, but, unfortunately, the adopted sanctions laws do not allow it now. So, we have exported all these products to Turkey since the spring of this year, here we found a factory completely identical to the one we have in Tatarstan. We deliver the finished products to a Turkish factory, where they are repackaged in another container, and from there, they go to Poland as goods produced in Turkey.

We have established similar chains in both directions very quickly — they are all actively working.

“We have already grown a halal generation of children”

We have been telling the Russian business community and political circles for many years that the Arab countries and the Muslim world are friends. We have been developing the direction of Islamic business since 2005. We are partly glad that in such a difficult moment for our country, it is the Arab Muslim countries that have not followed the lead of the world Cerberus — the United States, but are conducting their balanced, planned policy of building good relations with Russia.

There are getting more and more Muslims in the country. It's no secret that Muslim families have an average of three children or more. The largest average number of children per family in Ingushetia is six, in Chechnya — five, and Dagestan — four children per family. Who else can compete with Muslims in terms of demographics? No one. What can I say, in 10, 20, 30 years there will be much more Muslims, and they need all those goods and services that we popularise, open, and establish in our association. We view our whole life from birth to death through the lens of halal. Everything is built in Islam as in the constitution.

This is a whole “halal lifestyle”. Now a new generation of Muslims in Russia is growing up. Our children have been in Islam since birth, even since conception. We grew up in different conditions, but our children are completely different. They have never smoked in their lives, they have never consumed alcohol, they have never heard the words obscenities at home in their lives. This is a completely different generation. This is a generation that was born from the early 2000s. All those who were born in Muslim families at that time have now begun to enter adulthood and create new families, children are beginning to be born to them.

Halal is very much in demand. We are going to continue to unite Muslim entrepreneurs and Islamic business in our country, to create the most comfortable conditions for them.

Photo: Maksim Platonov/realnoevremya.ru

“Our dream is to create an Islamic Chamber of Commerce and an Islamic Business Centre”

The plans for the next 2-5 years include the opening of the Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Russia, which is very important for the country. For the Islamic world, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry is the most important body for businesses. So far, unfortunately, this remains only in words. There is also a second dream — to build a Russian centre of Islamic businesses. We have built a new IT park on Kaban, now we need to build the same Centre of Islamic businesses. We've been wanting this for a long time.

The main task for us is to popularise Islamic finance and the Islamic economy in Russia. The main goal that we set is to increase the number of members of the association. At the beginning of 2022, there were 7,500 people in our community, by the end of the year this figure had increased to 10,000. We have significantly grown into members of the association. The geography of coverage is extensive, the members of our union run businesses all over the country. These are mainly regions where there is a Muslim population — Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, the Volga Federal District as a whole, of course, the Caucasus, as well as Siberia, Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The main achievement of the outgoing year is the opening of the first Islamic finance office of the largest bank in Kazan. This is the only such branch in Russia so far. In the future, this direction is planned to expand. Now Muslim entrepreneurs have the opportunity to open settlement accounts, personal savings accounts, bank cards according to Sharia. The discussion of the project began about 2 years ago, and this year we signed a strategic partnership agreement at KazanSummit. For its part, the association undertakes the function of maximally popularising Islamic banking in the Russian Federation. The opening of the first branch of Islamic finance in Sberbank, the “first swallow”, is a great joy for all Muslims. Now we are advertising this direction day and night so that the maximum number of Muslims know about it. Of course, it is important for the bank to understand how such services will be in demand, how they will show themselves in practice, and not in words or paper. We can say that the activity among entrepreneurs is already visible today.

But Sberbank has not yet opened the most important thing — halal loans. Such loans are planned to start issuing in 2023. There is no doubt that this will be in demand, because any businessmen in their business always need borrowed funds for expansion, for the purchase of new equipment, etc. Muslim entrepreneurs do not apply to ordinary banks, because money is given there at interest. And this is haram. Halal credit is primarily an intention. Here the difference is in principle. Besides, in a halal bank, if you cannot pay the bills, fines are not accrued. If, of course, you explain and prove that you can't pay now. And it is impossible to deceive here. In a halal bank, the security service is 10 times stricter than in a regular one. Another important feature is that if one takes out a loan for production, but it burns down, then the loan is closed. That is, you are not a slave of this bank. It should be emphasised that halal loans can be obtained by anyone. Halal is open to everyone. If halal lending opens next year, it will be a furore.

Milyausha Kashafutdinova

The author's opinion may not coincide with the position of the editorial board of Realnoe Vremya.