Speech at the 4th Media Forum in Yalta, Crimea
In a very basic definition, a civilization is the multidimensional space-time that is formed on the cultural, social and economic basis of a particular social group. In this context, “culture” is the set of all forms and expressions of a given society. With that being said, when we try to review the history of mankind, it is easy to detect patterns and behaviours that have always been present in the evolution of all civilizations, such as power relations, religions, economic models, moral values, identity search, and so on.
Modern Muslim states play a huge role in world economy, politics, and culture. These three dimensions are inseparably intertwined with one another. The fact that these states supply the resources to the world market has a considerable influence on the political processes and events of a global nature, has proven that modern Muslim states play huge roles to the world economy, politics, and culture. Moreover, politics is so much connected with culture. In fact, what actually determines the character of mutual relations of the Islamic world with other parts of the world community, is the cultural or civilization dimension.
This event has created an idea in the Western political discourse that as a community, Islamic world denies the concept of democracy. This assumption was then often used to justify pressure towards the Muslim states that politically they did not follow the course of American policy.
There are several characteristics that Islam has as a religion, that distinguish it from other religions. First, it is an all-encompassing character of the religion which is not just a world outlook, ideology or a code of spiritual values, but a lifestyle, as it universally regulates an adept’s life. Second, it is a remarkable religion of solidarity which unites all believers irrespective of their skin colour, national identity, and other characteristics.
Islam is the youngest of all monotheistic religions. It emerged 14 centuries later than Judaism and 6 centuries later than Christianity, its birthday being 622 A.D., i.e. Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) passage from Mecca to Medina. Thus, it is quite natural that it took in many features of the two mentioned Abrahamic religious doctrines.
Islam is a religion oriented on equality and social justice as the Quran contains a number of references that a true Muslim may differ from his fellows not in wealth, knowledge, experience or power, but only in piety. The simplicity and consistency of this religion’s principles, and its ability to provide the adepts with an integral and clear view of the world, society, the structure of the universe makes Islam attractive for new followers. It can be said that there is no other religion that has such a great number of followers passionately and devotedly committed to their faith.
The Muslim people itself considers Islam as their foundation of life and a measure of everything. In reality, Islam is more than a religion that the Muslim civilization connects people with very different mentality and customs, who still realize their affiliation to one religious fellowship.
After the defeat of Egypt and other Arab countries in the war with Israel in 1967, the influence of religion in the Muslim East has increased dramatically. This was caused by the failure of many socio-economic doctrines which different Muslim states, mainly Arab, tried to apply. The projects of Arab socialism and nationalism have failed, as well as the attempts to build the society of scientific socialism in Afghanistan, and alike. That is why religious figures profess that all defeats of Muslims are connected with their digression from the true religion and the way to solve the problems lies through the comeback to the origins, to the correct initial Islam (which is called fundamentalism in the West), and this statement is immensely popular.
In fact, religion and politics in the Muslim East are one whole, and this accounts for the appearance of Islamic radical sects and movements.
We cannot disregard that the majority of international terrorist attacks were conducted by Muslims, and this makes many people in the West perceive this religion as a threat. The actions of these extremists result in identification of Islam as terrorism. This image also contributed to the growing of violence and hatred towards Islam as a religion. This image is actually far from being true as in its essence Islam is a peaceful religion, merciful, and goodness that have always been rooted in the hearts of Muslims around the world.
Certainly, civilization is neither a solid nor a conflict-free thing. The majority of victims in the both world wars of the last century belonged to one Judeo-Christian civilization. Retardation of the Muslim world in the course of the last centuries led to its standing on the side-lines of the world politics and this favoured the appearance of Islamic fundamentalism and even radicalism.
Muslims are proud of their old and rich civilization but note with bitterness that other nations rule and govern the world. This in particular creates the ground for an emerge of radical movements which profess the ideas of violence. Moreover still, the overall majority of Muslims adhere to the principles of temperance and mercy. Moreover, on the other side, Islam actually has the potency to contribute to the development of the society, with its great cultural traditions and hundreds of millions of devoted followers that always possess a colossal strength and dynamism.
Islam is starting to approach the center of international activity in a number of regions, but still it is not always discussed and thought in a positive way. It is often regarded as a serious threat, especially in the West.
Muslims’ historical memory about their past might, their desire to revenge the West for the decades of humiliation and abuse of rights, to overcome underdevelopment and re-establish reputation and influence in the world – all these become a powerful stimulus for uniting efforts and strengthening the Islamic world. Islamic faith appears to be an efficient means to achieve this purpose, as it presents an adequate moral force of influence on the conduct of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) followers and a way for their consolidation.
The Islamic world is currently actively positioning itself as a strong player in the international arena. In the 21st century, we witness its consolidation due to a number of historical factors. The advancement of the Islamic world which was previously called by many political analysts as ‘a civilization of the poor’, to the world politics field is becoming more evident nowadays.
Muslims have stronger spirit and are certain they struggle for their truth, as it is recognized by many political analysts. Compared with the de-Christianizing sybaritic Europe, Muslim communities appear to be harbours of ideological confidence and readiness for decisive protection of their rights. Muslims do a lot to prove that their peace-loving and merciful religion, while terrorism have nothing in common. Currently the Muslim world mobilizes its resources for a struggle with extremists, and it is becoming more and more successful. Consolidation of the temperate forces of the Muslim world is a process which is gaining momentum. It is no longer easy to claim many organizations to be terrorist as they are being regarded by the Western hemisphere.
With reference to everything stated, it is Russia that may help to bridge the gap between the West and the Muslim and play the most important role in joining forces, in creating and strengthening the atmosphere of mutual understanding and collaboration.
Russia itself is not only an Orthodox country, but also a Muslim country. This is why Russia cannot live ignoring the Islamic world. Russia’s relations with Islamic countries have been rapidly developing in the recent years. In 2005, Russia became a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference as an observer – the only country among the permanent members of the UN Security Council. It gave Russia an opportunity to better perceive the modern life of the Islamic world, as well as to strive for a deeper mutual understanding with the Muslim countries on many topical questions.
The Russian Federation is a multinational and multidenominational country. According to the Arena Atlas, the survey found that 6.5% or 9,400,000 were Muslims. Another survey by the Pew Research Center, in May 2017, found that 10% of Russia’s population is Muslim. According to a news article of Russia Today, Muslim minorities make up approximately 15% of the total population of Russia.
Islam appeared on the territory of modern Russia even earlier than the formal Christianization of Russia took place. Christians and Muslims of Russia possess a unique centuries-long experience of living together, peaceful coexistence, and mutual enrichment of their cultures, which the majority of the European countries do not have, especially if we take into consideration that there are more Muslims in Russia than in any other European country, and percentage share of Muslims is also growing rapidly. Not to mention that the attitudes of Russia and the Islamic world are close or the same practically to all global key problems.
Nowadays, our planet encounters a number of shortages of vital resources, such as water, food, and ultimately oil. However, the main problem of the modern world is the lack of justice. It is the strengthening of Russia’s role and more active collaboration of Russia and the Islamic world that gives hope for the revival of spiritual and moral values in the world. In the majority of Islamic capitals Russia is perceived as a powerful friendly state able to suggest realistic mutually acceptable solutions to the existing conflict situations.
It is also important that Russia has moral ideals similar to those in the Islamic world. Among them are a man’s civil and state responsibility, mutual help, the role of family values, moral approach to international relations, and many other factors. We can speak about civilizational similarity of our people. Today, Russia lives in the epoch of resolute restoration of our national cultural and historical memory. In this single important dimension of the process of establishing our statehood the Orthodox and Muslim traditions are united both by their God-given closeness and by vital interests of people who face stunning challenges of the era which defies the national foundations of globalization.
That is why we must keep on appealing for playing a more active role in preventing an intercivilizational split-up, or the so-called ‘clash of civilizations’.
To fulfil this, we need to strengthen collaboration between Christianity and Islam in our country in every way possible. These are the major confessions, as the other two traditional religions – Judaism and Buddhism – have much fewer followers. All this requires from the Russian state a straight and consistent attitude to the major faiths.
We are living in the times of globalization that have been marked by the greatest and dramatic civilizational changes which have ever been experienced by the humanity. The civilization has cleared the way for the unprecedented opportunities for the accelerated scientific and technological progress, for the interaction of states and peoples, for broadening contacts between people and their cultural and spiritual values. Establishing favourable relations between the Islamic world and the West with Russia playing a leading role will essentially mark a decisive turn for the better in international relations, as this involves more than half of the humanity, for Christians and Muslims together constitute more than three billion people.
Finally, together with the Islamic world, we are the energy storehouse of the mankind. It is well-known that Russia and the Islamic world jointly own the main part of energy resource potential of the universe. We are to sail in this boat together for a long time, the longer the better.