Voices from Russia

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Encyclopaedia “Islam in Contemporary Russia” Presented in Moscow


Roman Silantyev, a prominent Islamolocist, is convinced that Islam in Russia needs state support. He stated such at a presentation in Moscow of his encyclopaedia titled “Islam in Contemporary Russia”. This is the first Russian encyclopaedia that goes into great detail about the Islamic religion. According to Professor Silantyev, the author and compiler, the book is meant for a general readership. He is convinced that Russians should know about Islam. “I tried to include into the book as much material as I could about the current state of the Islamic community in Russia. The book contains descriptions of the main trends in Islam, culture, book publishing, and education. Descriptions of Muslim communities in various regions of Russia have also been provided. The book is provided with numerous quotations, interviews with Muslim leaders, and documents and analysis written by Muslims themselves”.

He conceived the idea several years ago of compiling an encyclopaedia so that Russians could familiarise themselves with Islam and so that he could help stop aggression against the Muslim community of Russia. Those who speak against the religion of Prophet Mohammed do not know that the history of Islam in Russia can be traced several centuries back. The attitude of Christians to Islam in Russia varied. For instance, in the 16th century Islam suffered disfavour, but in the mid-17th century, it was already tolerated, and from the end of the 18th century to the early 20th-century there was so-called golden age of Islam in Russia. At that time, Muslim clergy were paid by the government; they were integrated into the Russian state apparatus, and enjoyed some privileges. Soviet rule delivered a severe blow to the position of Islam. In the USSR, Muslim education in Russia was practically liquidated, and Muslim theology disappeared. Muslims were compelled to send their children abroad to get education, primarily to Arab states, where they were not taught to be theologians, but, ideological saboteurs.

Professor Silantyev is convinced that today we can see the consequences of that education. Said, “The proportion of extremists is growing amongst Muslims in Russia. Frequently, money sent to Muslims in Russia gets into the hands of Muslims who are hostile to this country. More and more often, anti-Russian and anti-government statements are made on behalf of Muslims. Their number increased markedly in the past two years. All such statements are provocative, and, unfortunately, they are seen as the position of the whole of the Muslim community in Russia. This should be discouraged; otherwise the situation will continue to deteriorate”.

In recent years, Russian government policy towards Islam has changed for the better. Several presidential programmes on Muslim education have been launched, the state allocates enough money for Islamic clergy training in Russia, it supports Muslim foundations, and helps Islamic believers to prepare for the hajj to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Professor Silantyev believes that much is being done, yet, it is too early to speak of a revival of Islam in Russia. He is convinced that a revival of Muslim theology should be encouraged by the state. Only this, he said, can bring about a renaissance of Islam in Russia.

3 June 2008

Voice of Russia World Service


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