01/21/2020, 13.46
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Islam has sights set on Russia

by Vladimir Rozanskij

For the first time, a thesis on Islamic theology is accepted in a state university. The faithful of Muhammad in the country could reach 30% by 2030. Islam and the Orthodox Church will have to share loyalty of believers, in competition but also in agreement with Erdogan's neo-Ottoman Turkey.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Saint Petersburg State University has announced that in 2020 the first defense of a doctoral dissertation of Islamic theology will be held on the "Islamic modernist movement of the late XX - early XXI century", whose author is the imam -mukhtasib Damir Mukhetdinov, rector of the Moscow Islamic Institute and first vice-president of the Russian Federation Religious Administration for Muslim.

According to the new academic rules, inspired by the Orthodox Church, theology has been an official academic topic since last year, and the faculty council has the power to accept theological theses for specialization and doctoral theses. The thesis supervisor is Professor Vitalij Naumkin of the Russian Academy of Sciences, one of the country's most famous orientalists and Islamologists.

Mukhetdinov's thesis will be an opportunity to evaluate the importance of the Muslim religion in today's Russia, a topic that is becoming increasingly significant: according to various analyzes, in 2030 the number of followers of Muhammad in the country will reach 30%, and in 2050 could exceed 50% of the population. To date, between 15 and 20 million Russians profess the Islamic faith, present in all regions of the country, as well as in the two main regions of the Tartar ethnic group, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, and in the areas of the North Caucasus, where Islam is practically the official religion.

Beginning in the 1990s, representatives of these communities and ethnic groups developed an increasingly intense dialogue, overcoming ethnic language barriers by using the common Russian language. In many mosques in Russia sermons are now pronounced in Russian. Muslim organizations have also consolidated further over time: in Tatarstan there is a Council of Muftis alongside the central religious administration, in the Caucasus there is a regional coordination center, to which the many local muftis refer.

The Russian government has avoided imposing a single structure on all Muslims, given the difficulty of imposing an official line, and prefers to play with the various organizations, which are around 80 throughout the Federation.

Statistics for Muslims are also growing in regions not traditionally characterized by Islamic ethnicities, such as in the northernmost areas of the country and in the Far East, also following migratory flows from other origins, such as that of the Uyghurs from China. There is no agreement between the experts on the figures, as there are no specific elements to determine the religious affiliation of the population, only the indicative criteria of the survey. Sometimes perceptions are swayed by particular events such as some recent prayer meetings of Muslims who filled a large street in Moscow, the Olympijskij Prospekt, giving the outside the impression of an apocalyptic prophecy for the future of Russia.

In Russian consciousness, however, "traditional" Islam is distinguished from "radical" Islam, referring to the historical events for which the Tatars who dominated ancient Rus from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, converted to Islam at the end of the fourteenth century, then integrated into Orthodox Russia from the time of Ivan the Terrible, who defeated the Tatars of Kazan and made them vassals of the Muscovite "Third Rome". The radical push would instead have emerged after the end of communism, especially in Chechnya and the Caucasus, but they too would now be under control of Putin's neo-orthodox politics.

Islam and the Orthodox Church will therefore have to share the loyalty of believers to the ideal of Russia increasingly united within and powerful in the international panorama, above all thanks to the control of the Middle East region in competition, but also in agreement with neo-Turkey Ottoman of Erdogan. As the initiatives of Russia and Turkey in the Libyan and Mediterranean crises are currently revealing.

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