Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Both Russian Government and Russian Muslim Leaders Call for Unity but Work against It, Allowing Radicals to Exploit Situation, Batyr Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 2 – Both the Russian government and Russian Muslim leaders call for unity of the Russian umma, but each works against it, with the former allowing anyone who can claim the loyalty of three parishes to declare himself a mufti and the latter failing to define who should occupy such a position in theological terms, Rustam Batyr says.

            The plethora of muftiates and the fact that many individuals become muftis by heading the mixed religious-state institutions, the Muslim Spiritual Directorates (MSDs), creates conflicts which Islamist radicals exploit to the detriment of both the government and Islam, the Muslim activist continues (

            Batyr says that “the theology of the institute of the muftiate must be developed on the basis of the traditional theological inheritance of Islam but with its Russian specifics and history taken into account.” That is, Muslim theologians must take the lead in deciding how legitimate MSDs in Russia in fact are.

            That involves a whole raft of questions, including whether such officials may be appointed, as is the case in Islamic countries, or whether on the contrary, they “must be chosen by some kind of council as is required by the Koran.”  Muftiates are inherent to Islam. What must be decided is their relationship to the MSDs.

            Selfishness and ambitions have kept Muslim leaders from coming together on this, but the state, instead of helping by encouraging only large MSDs, has in fact promoted fissiparousness by making it far too easy for those with ambitions to call themselves muftis and set up shop as such.

            Despite its secular nature, the Russian state has promoted unity on occasion but in a far from consistent way, encouraging some groups but suppressing others. And because neither the existing MSDs nor the state has had much success, the best hope, Batyr suggests, is to be found in the far more centralized Muslim educational system.

            To date, its offerings on these issues have been slim and inconsistent; but at least the fact that all the major MSDs are represented in the council which guides senior Muslim educational institutions gives hope that if unity is going to emerge among Russian Muslims anytime soon, it will arise from here.


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