Monday, September 30, 2019

Russian Islam’s MSDs have Outlived Their Utility and Should Be Disbanded, Yemelyanov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 27 – The congress of the Union of Muftis of Russia (SMR), a body that used to be strikingly diverse and independent, resembled its rival the Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate of UFA which has always been deferential to officialdom and the meetings of the CPSU in the past and the ROC MP now, Valery Yemelyanov says.

            Such a development, the Vremya i mir commentator says, is especially unfortunate because it increasingly sets these groups at odds with the far more genuine religiosity of Muslims at the local level and especially in the North Caucasus and among immigrant communities from Central Asia (

            And that suggests, he continues, that the MSDs have outlived the real utility they had in the wake of the collapse of the USSR and should be disbanded because otherwise the gap between the leadership of these institutions and real Muslim life will continue to grow and the possibility for radicalization in the latter increase along with that development.

            “Already for a long time in the Muslim community of Russia,” Yemelyanov says, “there have been questions about the practical need for ‘spiritual administrations’ in their current form. Structured at the beginning of the religious rebirth in post-Soviet Russia, they then were really necessary for organizing the active religious life of Russians and securing needed resources.”

            “Now, however, they are converting themselves into a kind of bureaucratic superstructure where only one thing is important – the growth of their own apparatus and constant hidden (and not vey) conflicts among the spiritual administrations,” bodies which are foreign to Islam which has only “One ‘Spiritual Administrator,’” Allah.

            In his view, Yemelyanov concludes, “it would be more ‘canonical’ to concentrate administrative direction at the level either of one jamaat or local associations of believers. Centralization in ‘muftiates’ like those which exist in Russia are typical of countries where Muslims form the absolute majority of the population,” something not true of Russia.

            The commentator’s argument may be one whose time is coming. Earlier this month, Ingushetia shuttered its MSD (; and others may soon follow given fights among ethnic groups for control over these structures (

            But the biggest worries, ones that have informed discussions about the future of the MSDs, lie elsewhere in a combination of two fears: that Moscow is losing control of these structures ( and that the MSDs by their closeness to the state are losing Muslims to radical groups (

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