Staunton, December 4 – Since Vladimir Putin became president, the Muslims of Russia have erected 7500 mosques or slightly more one per day, a statistic in which the Islamic community of that country can take great pride but one that may disturb some of Putin’s supporters who believe that he is committed to making Russia more Russian.
That figure, far more than the number which opened at the end of Gorbachev’s time or during Yeltsin’s and more than a third of the total number of mosques in the Russian Empire before the Bolsheviks closed them as part of their anti-religious effort, was announced by Talgat Tajuddin, the head of the Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) in Ufa.
Speaking in Sverdlovsk yesterday, Tajuddin, who has sometimes styled himself as “the supreme mufti of Holy Rus,” delivered what the Nakanune.ru news agency characterized as “a quite sharp speech in which he declared that the main threat to Muslims and the surrounding world consists of radical Islamic trends” (nakanune.ru/news/2014/12/3/22379206).
“Radicalism and extremism have entered Sverdlovsk oblast like the Ebola virus,” the mufti said. They must be fought because these trends “have ascribed to themselves the right to judge independently” of any other Muslims. That is the attitude of “the godless,” but “our grandmothers always said that it is impossible to separate ourselves from society.”
Russia’s Muslims have accomplished a lot in addition to building a record number of mosques. But now there is a real risk that “the radicals will destroy what has been accomplished and inflict enormous harm on Muslims and the entire society.” That is something that simply “cannot be ignored.”
Tajuddin said that it was impermissible that such radicals continue to function “when the entire Middle East is bubbling and ‘brother has risen against brother’ in Ukraine.” During the war, he continued, “everyone suffered alike.” Muslims suffered just like all other Russians. And “we must remember how we all have lived together in one country.”
“May God grant that not too much more time will pass until we again become a single power, without a dictatorship, without a revolution,” the Ufa mufti said, “but as a result of love and concord. If Europe is united, then who can prevent us from doing the same?” And Russia’s Muslims need to fight for this now because prevention is better than having to put out fires.
Given all that, the mufti continued in a comment to the news agency, “any cases of provoking inter-ethnic or inter-religious hostility are examples of extremism. The very first task of a representative of any confession, be they Muslims, Christians, Jews or Buddhist, and of each citizenship is to preserve their country and hand it over to their children and grandchildren.”
Tajuddin was in Yekaterinburg for the appointment of a new mufti and his team for six year terms and for signing agreements with the governors of Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk oblasts. Sixteen of the 24 Muslim parishioners in the oblast were represented, but Tajuddin’s MSD is only one of six competing ones in the region.
The new regional mufti, Radifulla Gindullin, also spoke. He said that “our generation which began to be acquainted with Islam 20 to 25 years ago studied according to quite specific books, many of which were issued on money from Saudi Arabia, and Islam there is treated in an extremely one-sided manner.”
“With surprise,” he continued, “we found out that our Tatar and Bashkir enlightenment figures [the jadids of the end of the Russian imperial period] were well known throughout the entire Islamic world but under alien names.” Russia’s Muslims in contrast knew “practically nothing” about them. That needs to be changed too.
Another speaker was Rinat Rayev, the chief mufti of the Urals Federal District. He agreed that the problems of radicalization were all too real, and he noted that the situation of multiple and competing muftiates and MSDs was making it worse, not only leading to corruption but opening the way for Islamists from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.