» 10/02/2013, 00.00
Mufti of Russia : Dialogue is the only weapon for peace in Syria
Vice president of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Rushan Abbyasov , says we must defend the Christian presence in the Middle Eastern country . Muslim community " is the victim of a media attack” in Russia and worldwide. “Prospective” of seeing the Pope in Moscow. A conversation with AsiaNews .
Moscow (AsiaNews) - An appeal for "dialogue and prayer"
as a way out of the crisis in Syria , condemning any foreign military intervention in the conflict as
" inadmissible" as well as attacks against Christians in the Middle
East; rejecting the idea of a
" fundamentalist Islam " as inherently contradictory; pointing to the
international presses' responsibility in demonizing Muslims around the world
and support for the use of social networks by religious leaders to divert young
people from extremism . Thirty-two
years old and of Tatar origin , Rushan Abbyasov is the vice president of the
Council of muftis of Russia. He is Ravil
Gainutdin's right hand man, the chief mufti, who since 1996 has been at the
head of one of the largest organizations of the Muslim community in the
Federation ( over 20 million
members ) . In
a conversation with AsiaNews - in his office , near the construction site of
the Prospekt Mira Great Mosque in Moscow - Abbyasov also speaks of the problems
Muslims face in Russia, relations with the Kremlin and other religions and his
hopes for a
visit of Pope Francis to Moscow.
Azraht Abbyasov , what is the Council of
muftis position regarding the Syrian crisis ? What worries you most?
Muslims of Russia , like those around the world, are part of the Umma . Thus,
according to our religion , if someone is wounded, the whole community shares
in this pain. We
are very concerned about this war between Syrians , including Muslims, who kill
each other and Christians . Any type of bloodshed
can only worry us . Our
spiritual leader , the mufti Gainutdin , recently publicly supported the
intervention of President Vladimir Putin in the New York Times, against any
kind of attack on Syria .
Are you also opposed
to armed intervention ?
also believe that the external interference in a sovereign country is inadmissable.
scenario is what concerns us the most. We have seen
what has happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya ... it would be the same in Syria. Of
course, the international community needs to help solve the crisis, but only
through political dialogue .
How can religious leaders help
Our only weapon is the
only through talking, through dialogue - as the Pope, the Patriarch of Moscow
and other Muslim spiritual leaders all said - can we find the path to peace. Our
religion tells us that all conflicts must be resolved through dialogue and not
call on the Syrian government and all the parties in conflict to find a
peaceful solution. We
hope that our prayers are heard by both the Syrian government and opponents .
addition to prayers , you also have programs of humanitarian aid for the
through the Syrian ambassador in Moscow, we received a letter from the Grand
Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Hassoun Badreddin , calling for spiritual support. We
promised to pray that the land of Syria find peace . After
this letter, we started to think about what kinds of aid programs we can
implement and to study concrete plans to provide help.
do you think of the role that your country is playing in the Syrian crisis ?
am proud of the fact that Moscow has managed to stop an attack against Syria,
opening up the possibility of a political solution to the problem. There
is the word fitna in the Koran, which means discord, and it is a greater sin
than killing . The
Koran says those who manage to reconcile two conflicting parties are greatly
Russia is playing its part. A
year ago we received a delegation from Syria of politicians, religious leaders
and the opposition. We heard only
one thing from all of them: we want peace. My
impression is that there is a third force involved which aims to spread the fighting
a Muslim , are you concerned about the future of Christians in those lands ?
Christians have a very long history in the Middle East and we must preserve it
and defend it. And
this is the task of the rulers, who have the responsibility to ensure, in the
Constitution and in reality, the freedom and rights of minorities.
this is not often the case: although formally there is freedom of worship, in reality
this fails to prevent the persecution of Christians. For example in Egypt or Iraq.
should not look for an ideological reason in the attitude of governments
towards Christians . The Koran
teaches us not to kill or humiliate those who are different from us. The
information can now be manipulated, but Islam looks upon members of other
faiths with respect. Such
as the Christians and the Jews, who also have their prophets , such as Abraham
But those who kill Christians, often do so
in the name of their faith .
against Christians does not depend on Islam. If
a person follows the Koran heart and soul , they can not be violent. Today
the whole world is frightened by this fanaticism , which has nothing to do with
Islam. One of the
meanings of ' Islam ' is ' Peace ' . It
is therefore a contradiction to speak of ' Islamic terrorism ' ? Because it means ' terrorism of
peace ' .
Islam has no responsibility for these violent tendencies?
The problem is the media. As
the Council of Muftis , we have prepared a text, where we explain to reporters
how to correctly use the terminology regarding Islam. Using
the term ' radical Islam ' is totally wrong, as I have explained.
me get this straight , the spread of fundamentalism depends on TV and
television and newspapers always and only report what Osama bin -Laden and al-
Qaeda says and doe, then they are helping to spread their ideas. Why
not come and speak to scholars and spiritual leaders who study the Koran day
and night to know how Islam teaches us to really behave ?
What do you think of the new Pope ?
first impression is that of a humble person , who wants to be closer to the
people . This
is something we need today, because it is obvious that people want to be closer
to spirituality. It
is not just to leave churches or mosques open, but to be open to a direct
dialogue with the people, with our faithful. I
hope that this Pope plays a big role in interreligious dialogue. There
are reports of collaboration between Muslims and Catholics in Moscow and in
intend to develop them further , because only through dialogue can we preserve
Are you going to meet
Pope Bergoglio ?
when he comes to Russia , or if we go to Italy.
You have hopes,
therefore, of a Papal visit to Moscow?
meeting, communication or collaboration between religious leaders is helpful. Even
more so when media report on what we say : it is good for the people to see
peace and dialogue . Everyone
has their own faith and belief , but between us there is a commonality of
spiritual and moral values which are the same in the Bible and in the Koran. Often people do not
know this and you have to explain it . We
are ready to meet everyone who comes in peace to Moscow. Certainly
the possibility of the Pope's visit to Russia is related to problems between
Christians and between Orthodox and we shall not interfere in this, but
certainly if he came to Russia we would be ready to receive him and talk to him
What is the
biggest problem facing Muslims in Russia today ?
want to clarify that Muslims in Russia are part of the local population and not
just immigrants. Of
course the biggest problem is the fact that our values are distorted by the
media . Our
community has become the victim of a media attack . There
is not a day goes by when the media does not speak of Islamic terrorism , and
we do not have time to correct everything that is said .
you thing that the strong opposition to the construction of new mosques in
Moscow depends on this? You have been asking for this for a long time. But Muscovites
do not want to see other minarets in the city...
Yes , this is a problem too.
Russians go on vacation mainly to Muslim countries , Egypt and Turkey , but
then they fear us because the TV speaks of terrorism all day, of the fact that
there is extremist material in mosques . People
ask , then , why should they have a mosque near their home, near the park where
their children play.
can you fight the phenomenon of the underground and often fundamentalist community?
is a problem that concerns the security agencies and special forces , you
should ask them.
there is a problem related to young people, attracted by radicalism . What do you do to combat it ?
example, we try to use different means : not only the traditional Koranic
schools , but also the Internet and social networks. I
have a Twitter account , Facebook and a blog there and try to speak against
fundamentalism and promote the true Islam .
is not only in the Caucasus , but recently has also appeared in Tatarstan . Does
this only regard the security forces as well?
is difficult to understand fundamentalism in that context, because it is a
stable and developed region. The problem
exists, but for the most part is fabricated . Today
there are forces that want to divide the Muslim and the Russian community,
prevent its prosperous development . We have to fight these forces.
Can you tell me what these forces
are forces trying to destabilize the situation , but who they are and who is
behind them is a question for the police , we are not investigators.
some Russian regions girls are banned from wearing the Islamic veil in school. What do you think ?
the veil is not only a Muslim custom, but also part of the traditional national
costumes . And there
had been no problem. Today
some are trying to create the idea of there being a problem in the Muslim
community . There
is no federal law banning the veil, and here, unlike that in Europe , you can
be photographed with the veil even in official documents . In
addition, the veil is also the way in which - in keeping with other religions -
we try to fight the immorality and preserve moral values .
a law was passed against attacks on religious sentiment. Do you think it necessary?
were in favour because we experienced this problem first hand, with swastikas
continuously being sprayed on our mosque.
Did you also agree with the
introduction of religion classes in school?
think the most important thing , in school, is to study the fundamentals of the
religions of the world and not individual religions . We
live together and often do not know each other our idea of the other is the one
created by the media. When
children understand the basics of other religions and their traditions, the
child understands that there are common roots among us.
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