Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, was again home to the traditional annual iftar and tens of thousands of people gathered on the grasses of Arena Stadium to break their fasts and perform their prayers. Many considered this as the biggest iftar meal in the history of Russia. The Tatarstan President RustamMinnikhanov attended this gathering that attracted great interest nationwide.
This is a very enlightening progress and an important gesture following Putin’s statement regarding the Islamic world in Kazan last May, that Russia will always be a reliable friend of the Islamic World. Putin has shown on many occasions that he has respect and fondness for Islam. He is a person who is always on the side of God and respects people’s freedom from different faiths or ethnicities. Russia is a good example of embracing the co-existence of Christians and Muslims and Putin is striving to keep this beauty as the co-existence faded away in many of the Middle Eastern countries, which were once home to citizens of different faiths and ethnicities. Russia’s efforts to adopt such an exemplary multinational identity have hit the headlines of many newspapers with Putin posing with both Christian and Muslim religious leaders. Another significant step Putin made in connection with this matter was the formation of a new Russia-Islamic World Strategic Vision Group last year, intended for improving relations between Russia and Muslim countries, and appointed President Minnikhanov as its chair.
It’s important to remember Putin’s speech in Valdai Forum in September 2013 to understand that he is a devout Christian and gives utmost importance to moral values in societies: “Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values. Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation… People in many European countries are embarrassed or afraid to talk about their religious affiliations. Holidays are abolished or even called something different; their essence is hidden away, as is their moral foundation…Without the values embedded in Christianity, without the standards of morality that have taken shape over millennia, people will inevitably lose their human dignity.”
Years ago, some of my friends were invited to a gathering in Russia where the Grand Mufti attended. During this visit they heard that Putin would attend and when they told me about the event when they returned, they said that Putin’s manners for the Grand Mufti and the other attendees were very loving and respectful. This information left a very positive impression on me and made me realize that he was in favor of the spirituality of Islam. Actually, he is making great efforts for morality of both Islam and Christianity to prevail across the country and the world. This is a very balanced attitude in a country where people of different faiths co-exist. He desires to have a youth who have high moral values and who are distant from drugs, alcohol or other addictions. He is cognizant that only a religious foundation would prevent them from such damage. It is a great advantage for Russia to have a leader who cares about spirituality and morality of his people.
As we are all aware that Russia is home to a large Muslim community as well as Christians and many other ethnic groups. Today, there are some two million Muslims living in Moscow, 16% of the city’s total population. This population is even more than some of the Islamic states. The total Muslim population in Russia is twenty million. It is very promising to see the depth of integration of Muslims and Christians in the country. In the neighborhoods where Muslim population dominates, Christians also live in tranquility. On the other hand, Muslims are not exposed to any kind of discrimination where Christians are majority. This exemplary co-existence is deriving from Putin’s allowing leaders of different faiths or ethnicities to have their voices heard and his collaboration with them at every opportunity. It is noteworthy that Putin gives messages of peace and solidarity to Muslims during religious holidays and festivities. Religious affairs are not the only area we encounter Muslims being influential in Russia. For instance, there are Muslims in Russia’s top 100 wealthiest people and we know of Muslim politicians having influential roles in domestic and foreign policies. This list goes on in terms of science, art, and sports, as well.
Putin’s having good relations with Muslims living within Russia is appreciative. It is also understandable that he is in favor of authentic Islam based solely on the Qur’an and against radicalism deriving from superstitions. Regrettably, many Muslims have abandoned the Qur’an and started following teachings of other fabricated resources not compatible with the Qur’an. This erroneous development is the main reason behind the wars or suicide bombings perpetuated frequently in many countries using the name of Islam. It also creates a system called bigotry, which gives rise to a primitive lifestyle built around a general hostility towards art, love, women and beauty in every aspect of life. This certainly burdens a great responsibility on Muslims and to eliminate such a system based mostly on hate requires serious efforts and actions. First of all, Muslims should realize and accept that this erroneous understanding is not something to blame others but something to be solved within the Islamic world. Blaming others would be of no use and the best thing to do is to remove the cancerous tissue out of the Islamic world by turning to the teachings of the Qur’an and giving intellectual education especially in the Islamic world. Muslims should also prove to the world that they are highly sophisticated, loving and peaceful people who respect every faith and ethnicity.
The reliable ally Russia has been longing for is definitely the Islamic world. I’d like to have good relations with the West, as well, however, it is an undeniable fact that Islamic world and Russia have a lot in common. Muslims are loyal people who know what it is like to live through difficulties and they are not egotistic, they have spiritual depth and open heart, they are ready to sacrifice for the good of their friends. Therefore, it is quite easy for Russia to win over hearts and minds and enjoy the support of Muslims. A strong unity based on solidarity between Russia and the Islamic world will lead to an indestructible attachment. In this regard, this first step we just witnessed in normalization process between Turkey and Russia is of utmost importance. Both leaders of Turkey and Russia aspire to have a unity, solidarity and friendship in the region. These two countries had worked a lot to build a friendship and strategic partnership many other states covet but had to set apart for months due to an unwanted incident. I congratulate both leaders in their efforts to normalize our ties and I hope that relations will get much better than they were before very soon. May this friendship bring good to both peoples.
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