Staunton, November 2 – Muslim migrants from Central Asia and also the Caucasus form an increasing share of the members of the 45 officially registered Muslim communities in Moscow Oblast and are ever more often displacing the Volga Tatars who were the founders of these communities, according to Alena Guskova.
The student at the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology says that this shift has made these mosques centers of integration because the language imams and mullahs use has shifted from Tatar to Russian and because they work hard to help flocks become part of the Russian community (fergananews.com/articles/9615).
At the same time, Guskova reports, the Tatars continue to serve as the chief mullahs and imams, “but already in some places their deputies and assistants come from among the migrants.” That means that the mosques are losing their “Tatar character” and that means their nature as classical representatives of the “traditional” mosque-based Islam the regime approves.
According to certain reports, “from 60 to 80 percent of the parishioners” in this region are arrivals from Central Asia or the southern regions of Russia.” But the migrants do not yet set the tone n these mosques, she says. Instead, they remain, in the words of one Muslim leader, “only parishioners and not active members of the communities.”
One interesting pattern she points to is this: the new arrivals view the Tatars as their guides to living in the Russian region and thus give them enormous authority and respect even though the Tatars no longer dominate these communities as they once did.
Another speaker at the same conference, Vladimir Malakhov, a political scientist at the Presidential Academy of Economics and State Service, provides a broader perspective on the impact of migrants on the Muslim community in the Russian Federation.
In response to a question about the possible “Islamization of Russia,” he observes that “until recently, migration from so-called ‘Muslim countries’ into Russia was not talked about in such terms.” Instead and reflecting Soviet tradition, Russians both officials and ordinary citizens have discussed them more in ethnic terms than in religious ones.
That makes Russians much less fearful of possible “Islamization” than Europeans are, Malakhov continues. But there are two other reasons for that. On the one hand, given that between 10 and 12 percent of Russia’s indigenous population is Muslim, followers of Islam aren’t viewed as a threat from abroad.
And on the other, given that the Kremlin presents itself as “the moral alternative to immoral Europe” and a defender of traditional religious values, the Russian authorities are generally far more restrained in presenting Muslims as a problem and threat than are their European counterparts.