Sunday, November 19, 2017

‘The Tatar Language Saved Islam in Russia in the Past: Now, Islam Will Return the Favor,’ Mufti Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 19 – “At one point,” Mufti Mansur Dzhalyaletdin says, “the Tatar language saved religion” in Russia; “now, Islam will try to preserve the Tatar language.” And in that effort, he continues, the Tatar language will gain defenders not only among Tatar Muslims but also from Muslims across the former Soviet space and even the world.

            The deputy mufti of the Republic of Tatarstan’s observation about the past reflects the fact that Tatars provided not only the intellectual leadership for Russia’s Muslims but also provided many of the mullahs and imams in mosques in Russia during Soviet times. Indeed, many referred to these places in Moscow and other cities as “Tatar mosques.”

            But his suggestion that Muslims from across Russia, from Central Asia and the Caucasus, and from the Muslim umma abroad are now coming to the aid of the Tatar language, now under assault by Vladimir Putin’s regime, is the subject of an important new article he has written for Kazan’s Business-Gazeta (

            Tatarstan, Dzhalyaletdin says, has largely avoided the ethnic conflicts that have broken out elsewhere because despite hostility from some quarters, its people are tolerant and open to others, including Russians whose language they learn. They believe people should know the language of where they live. But the new attack on the Tatar language threatens to change that.

            On the one hand, he suggests, many Tatars already view the attack on their language as an attack on their nationhood and dignity. And on the other, they are likely to respond by becoming less open to others, possibly even opening private schools for their children to study Tatar if the public schools make this impossible.

            There are currently 1500 Muslim parishes in Tatarstan, the mufti continues, and they are following the order of the Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) to conduct services in Tatar. That directive is not only enthusiastically supported in Tatarstan, Dzhalyaletdin says, but by Muslim leaders throughout Russia.

            “It is no secret that many people send their children to England the US to study English,” he continues; but it is less well known that Muslims across Russia and indeed from the entire Muslim world are sending their children to Kazan to learn Tatar.  They too are prepared to defend Tatar against Russian attacks.

            To distract attention from its shortcomings and policy failures – such as repairing roads or building hospitals – the mufti says, Moscow has launched an attack on the Tatar language. What it did not understand is that Tatars would see that as an attack on their nationhood and Muslims would see it as an attack on their faith. 

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