Representatives of all religions, including the muftis of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, are on board. “We must learn to unmask and disarm satanic forces, before they carry out their evil deeds,” said Metropolitan Ilarion so that people can be swayed “away from any kind of extremist preaching.”
Moscow (AsiaNews) – The Interreligious Council of Russia met on Tuesday in Moscow where it formally decided to ask state authorities to declare Muslim Wahhabi associations as extremist in order to legally shut them down.
The Council’s resolution was proposed by Mufti Kamil Samigullin, chairman of the Spiritual Board of Tatarstani Muslims. "We must ban this ideology,” he said, “because it spreads mutual hatred among people. Our laws may not ban ideologies, but they can stop associations inspired by them. In our country, Wahhabis have many entities with different profiles, continuously evolving and growing. By outlawing Wahhabism, we can at least make their activities more difficult, and cut the flow of people who are recruited.”
The Interreligious Council met at the Saints Cyril and Methodius Theological Institute of Postgraduate Studies in Moscow. The meeting was chaired by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations.
senior members of the Patriarchate were present, like the Metropolitan of Kazan and Tatarstan Feofan (Ashurkov); the head of the Department for Church–Society Relations Vladimir Legojda; and the director of the patriarchal legal service, Abbess Ksenia (Chernega).
In addition to Mufti Samigullin, Muslims were represented by Muhammad Tadzhuddinov, the mufti of Bashkortostan (a Republic with an important Tatar population); Imam Shafig Pshikhachev who represented Moscow Muslims; and Artur Suleimanov, dean of the Russian Islamic University.
Also in attendance were Russia’s Chief Rabbi Adolf Shayevich, and various politicians and academics, law enforcement officials, as well as business leaders involved in inter-faith actions at various levels.
The main topic of discussion was the fight against terrorism and Islamic extremism. The Council’s first resolution was to open branches in Tatarstan, the North Caucasus, and areas with a significant Muslim presence.
Tatarstan is the traditional home of Russia’s Tatar-Mongol population, which ruled Russia between the 13th and the 15th centuries, converting to Islam in the mid-14th century. Other ethnic groups live the Caucasus, like Chechens and Assyrians, long subjected to Turkish-Ottoman influence.
In his address, Metropolitan Ilarion said that "with the terrorist threat so high, it is important to coordinate the efforts of religious communities. This concerns above all those regions where the danger of extremism is higher. The latter must be eradicated at all levels. This requires plans for wide-ranging actions [. . .]. We must learn to unmask and disarm satanic forces, before they carry out their evil deeds."
The Orthodox prelate stressed the need for "full religious education" to prevent terrorism, from elementary schools to university. "We must guarantee our citizens a level of doctrinal preparation in religious matters, so as to sway them away from any kind of extremist preaching. Every citizen in our country, of any age, must know the teaching of traditional religions, and understand that the ideology of terrorism contradicts the foundations of any religion."
The members of the Council then assessed the anti-terrorist measures that protect religious buildings, which come under the jurisdiction of federal and regional authorities.
Abbess Ksenia (Chernega) presented a series of recommendations formulated by the Patriarchate’s legal service, which was presented to law enforcement agencies as a joint project by the Interreligious Council.
Finally, it was decided to establish a scientific theological association for interreligious education, to which all theological institutes of all denomination would contribute. This would formally recognise university-level theological specialisation for the country’s three main religious denomination, Orthodoxy, Islam and Judaism.