Sunday, September 30, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Most Pressing Problems of Russia’s Muslims Outlined

Paul Goble

Vienna, September 30 – A leading Muslim academic in the Russian Federation has identified what he describes as the 17 most pressing problems his co-religionists face in that country. While others will certainly dispute parts of this list, it nonetheless represents an important first attempt at a comprehensive statement of these challenges.
In an essay entitled “The Problems of the Muslim Family in Russia” posted online last week, Damir Khayretdinov, rector of the Nizhniy Novgorod Islamic University, in fact tackles the larger topic of the problems that members of the Muslim community across the Russian Federation now face (
Khayretdinov provides an extensive discussion of each of these problems, but even a simple listing of them, grouped as he does in three parts – specifically religious problems, social-political ones, and challenges arising from economic change – provides both a portrait of a community undergoing radical change and a guide for future research.
Perhaps even more important, at least in the short term, these problems may also help to clarify the issues to which Muslims in the Russian Federation will respond during the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. The problems Khayretdinov discusses are given in summary form below:

The Religious Problems of Russia’s Muslims

1. A low level of knowledge about Islam
2. A sense of inferiority and incompleteness on the part of many of Russia’s Muslims because of the attitudes of other Russians toward them
3. Difficulties in living according to Muslim laws
4. Problems in obtaining Islamic training and education
5. State-backed propaganda on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church
6. The Rise of occult and mystical trends within Russian society since the end of the 1980s

The Social Political Problems of Russia’s Muslims

7. The reaction of Russian society to the influx of immigrants from Central Asia
8. Persecution on racial, national and religious grounds by the militia and other government officials
9. The inability, even impossibility, of Russia’s Muslims realizing their physical and moral potential because of obstacles on the social and economic latter
10. Anti-Muslim orientations of many in Russian society during military and political conflicts on the Russian periphery
11. Anger among many Russians concerning ethnic Russian conversions to Islam, an anger that is often expressed by ostracizing them from the broader society

The Challenges Russia’s Muslims Face as a Result of Recent Economic Changes

12. Increasing incidence of disease among Muslims as well as among non-Muslims
13. Falling birthrates and a growth in child mortality among both groups
14. Declining life expectancies among both
15. An increasing focus on material well-being rather than spiritual and moral issues
16. The continuing impoverishment of the poorest groups of society, combined with growing wealth among the most well-off
17. The inability of Muslims to resolve on their own the problems involved in the rebirth of their religious, including the construction of mosques and medressahs, the publication and purchase of literature, and so on.

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