Thursday, July 5, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Kremlin Aiding Russia’s Muslim Universities the American Way

Paul Goble

Vienna, July 5 – Moscow has adopted the same approach the U.S. has taken with regard to religious schools in order to provide financial support to Russia’s Muslim universities – pairing secular institutions with these religious institutions so that the former can provide instruction to students in the latter in “non-religious” subjects.
Aleksei Grishin, an advisor in the Presidential Administration, outlined this two-year-old effort in a June 26 speech to a Moscow conference on “The Development of the Religious Education of Russia’s Muslims.” His remarks have now been posted online (
He said that the Russian Ministry of Education and Science has paired five Islamic universities with five state institutions so that students working on their decrees in various religious disciplines can receive training in secular subjects like literature, mathematics, and computer science.
The five state institutions involved in this effort are the Moscow State Linguistics University, the Kuban State University, the Nizhniy Novgorod State University, the Smolniy Institute of Free Arts and Sciences of the St. Petersburg State University, and the North-Caucasus State Technical University.
The five Muslim universities paired with them are respectively the Moscow Islamic University, the Russian Islamic University in Kazan, the Russian Islamic University in Ufa, the North Caucasus Islamic University in Nalchik, and the North Caucasus Islamic Center in the Daghestani capital of Makhachkala.
This arrangement, Grishin said, helps to raise the standards in Islamic training in Russia “to a new contemporary level” and also to “reduce the demand” among Muslims for training in Muslim institutions abroad, a major goal of the Kremlin which is concerned about the influence of radical Islamists on Russian Muslims.
Unlike in the United States, however, no one has yet gone to court in an effort to challenge this effort by an officially secular government to aid religious education. But that may soon change in the superheated politics in the run-up to the parliamentary elections at the end of this year and the presidential vote next.
On the one hand, Grishin’s speech, now that it is beginning to be reported in the media, seems certain to attract new attention to this issue. And on the other, he indicated that at the present time, the Kremlin is considering “concrete measures for the support of Islamic education,” an indication that even this kind of assistance may not be enough.
But at the same time, Muslim groups are certain to press for assistance of both kinds, because the government’s program currently provides help to only five of the 52 Muslim higher educational institutions and none at all to the vastly larger network of middle and primary Muslim training schools.

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