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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries: Russia


Islam in Russia has seen many a ups and downs. During the Communist USSR, Islam or for that matter all other religions saw state suppression which professed communism. However, things are much changed in the present day Russia, where Islam constitutes the second major religion after the Christian Orthodox. As per 2017 estimates, Muslims numbered 14,220,000 or 10.0% of the total population. However, the populations of two federal subjects with Islamic majorities were not surveyed due to social unrest, which together had a population of nearly 2 million, namely Chechnya and Ingushetia, thus the total number of Muslims may be larger.  These are the estimates as per an American survey. [1] However  according to the grand mufti of Russia, Sheikh Rawil Gaynetdin, the total figure touches something like 25 million, [2] 

Muslims are said to have put their feet on Russian soil in 7th century. They came to a city that is currently known as Derbent, it is in Southern Dagestan. And the first Adhan, call to worship, in Russia, was made on the lands of Dagestan,"  According to Sheikh Gaynetdin said most Muslims in the country live in the Moscow region and other major metropolitan areas such as St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. Islam was declared as the state religion in one of the states located in the territory of present-day Russia - in the Volga Bulgaria, in 922, which was 66 years earlier than the acceptance of Orthodox Christianity as the state religion of Kievan Rus, the Sheikh adds. [2]

In Russia, there are regions where the population is traditionally composed of Muslims. These are the republics of the North Caucasus (Ingushetia, Chechnya, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia), as well as Tatarstan and Bashkortostan.

In Russia, there are three federal centres for the management of Muslim religious affairs in Russia:
  • The Council of Muftis of Russia, Moscow 
  • The Muslim Spiritual Authority, Ufa.
  • The Muslim Spiritual Authority, Caucasus, which acts as the coordination centre of Muslims in the North Caucasus
Islam is a part of Russian historical heritage, and is subsidized by the Russian government.The position of Islam as a major Russian religion, alongside Orthodox Christianity, dates from the time of Catherine the Great, who sponsored Islamic clerics and scholarship through the Orenburg Assembly.

Cathedral Mosque is Moscow [Photo]

The Cathedral Mosque is Moscow’s oldest mosques, 107 years to be exact, is one of the five mosques of Moscow. During the communist regime, while many mosques were destroyed, the Cathedral Mosque survived and has undergone reconstruction that now makes it the biggest in Europe. On its inaugural function, which was also attended by the Turkish President Mr Erdogan, the Russian President said: The renovation of the mosque has given a magnificent modern new look worthy of the capital of our united, multi-ethnic and multi-confessional country. This new mosque is worthy of Russia, in which, I want to stress, Islam, under our country’s law, is one of Russia’s traditional religions, with millions of our citizens counting themselves among its followers.




How is the life of Muslims in Russia these days. Well generally speaking there is not much of  a problem. Muslims have peacefully coexisted with Orthodox believers over many centuries. However, incidents of terrorism since 1990s, when explosions ripped through apartment blocks in Moscow and Volgodonsk, have led to serious levels of Islamophobia. And a segments of Russian society has started behaving suspiciously towards Muslims. On the street and in private, girls who chose to wear hijabs were seen as potential terrorists: people tried to stay away from them on public transport, and police officers frequently checked their papers. People saw immigrants from the east as Muslims—whether they were or not— and thus a foreign element inside Orthodox Russia. [5]

In order to counter the negativity in the society against Muslims and calm down rising sentiments of Islamophobia, Muslims actively persuade fellow citizens not to confuse the faithful believers with those who call themselves Muslims, but actually do not follow the norms of Islam. Theologians too ask people not to associate terrorism with Islam, and to use education in preventing conflicts.

How do Muslims feel about Islamophobia and how they try to contest the peaceful Islam, here are some exclusive mentions:
Azamat came to Moscow from Kabardino-Balkaria, and he often faced a lack of understanding about who Muslims are. “Many see the defiant behaviour of the people from the Caucasian republics and think that all Muslims behave the same way, but this is not true,” he says. “A true Muslim will not molest a girl on the street, for example, and he will not drink or smoke. The most important thing for a religious man is to lead a righteous way of life, to pray, to help relatives or even neighbours. If your neighbour has nothing to eat, and you live in a wealthy house, then you are not living righteously,” says the young man. [4]
Zulya was born and lived all her life in Moscow. She has always been a Muslim, but she started wearing traditional clothes only four years ago, after she got married and gave birth to two children. Despite a higher education diploma, she managed to get work as a nurse in a daycare centre with great difficulty. “The director told me that another Muslim nurse worked there before. She wore traditional clothes and the parents, whose children attended the institution, wrote a petition against the Muslim nurse that looked after their kids. Therefore, I had to hide my religion, not to lose my job.” 
Mufti Farid Salman, Chairman of the Ulema Council of the Russian Association of Islamic Accord, said that the problem of hostility towards Muslims is not vivid in all Russian regions. “In the Volga Region there are no differences between people of different religions, they are neighbours, friends and colleagues. Despite the religious tenets, people of one religion do not seek to convert others to their faith,” says the theologian. “As a result, our close friends are followers of different religious traditions.”
Yekaterina, 35, embroidery designer, who is reverted Muslim, has all her family members following the Christianity while she and her son are the only Muslims in her family. but her son. She confides that "My son is five now, and any child born to a Muslim woman is also a Muslim. We had him circumcised in Egypt: in Russia it’s only done for medical reasons. But I’m bringing him up to accept all faiths – he's just like all the other kids. I’m bringing him upon my own." [5]
Dmitriy Sintsov, former Web programmer at Yaroslavl State University, who is not a Muslim supports the way Muslims live and support each other: [3]
"I am not Muslim, but I was interested with Islam, I read Al Quran and read some articles about it. When Geydar Dzhemal (a Russian Islamic revolutionist, philosopher, poet, and political and social activist. Dzhemal was the founder and chairman of the Islamic Committee of Russia) was alive there was the link to the video about the life in Russian Muslim Caucasus. It displayed the friendly supportive life, the respect to elderly, much less of divorces (stable families), no orphans, extended families with the friendly net of support. While in non-Muslim Russia there are so many alone people, very large number of divorces, large number of orphans."
After Russia's entry into OIC in 2005 as an observer, the intensity of contacts between the Russian Federation and the Arab - Muslim world has grown considerably, which  objectively poses the question of expansion of modern Islamic infrastructure in Moscow - halal shops, centers, funeral services, prayer rooms and buildings. [6]

Muslims in Russia celebrate their religious events like the holy month of Ramadan and the two Eids with religious zeal and fervor.. While doing so, they also open their religious functions to people of other faith to foster inter faith harmony. You may like to watch a video on Muslims living in Moscow celebrating the month of Ramadan:
Author's Note: The data above has been collected from the references as given below. IF any one differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

PhotoQolşärif Mosque in Kazan ) | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4  | 5 | 6 |
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