Veniamin Popov: “The world is on the verge of titanic shifts”

How to protect young people from the recruiters of terrorist organizations? How to get back to a normal life those who fell in the terrorist networks? How to build the prevention of zombification; how to interact in this respect at the international level? The international scientific-practical conference "Religion against terrorism" which was held on October 6 in Moscow at the People's Friendship University was supposed to answer these and other questions.


The conference was attended by the Coordinator of Group of strategic vision “Russia – Islamic world” Veniamin Popov. We publish this speech on our website.

“Religion in the modern world: geopolitics, political culture, Global Security”

Human history clearly proves that religion has always played an important role in the life of nations, has influenced – at different stages in different forms and dimensions – on the formation of the structure of international relations.

Matters of faith, religion and adherence to a particular religious confession are among the highly complex, multi-faceted matters because they concern above all the inner world of the individual, they have a profound individual character. And at the same time they also have a social aspect because they combine groups of co-religionists into communities, many of which are regional and planetary in nature, and have a great influence on global processes. This influence is predetermined by the fact that in some countries religion, which is practiced by the majority of the population is proclaimed the state religion. Thus Islam is the state religion in the Arab and a number of Asian countries. Christianity is the state religion in Greece, Cyprus. There are about 2.3 billion followers of different Christian denominations and 1.5 billion Muslims in the world.

The adherence to a particular faith determines the behavioral style of the believers – in some, for example, in Islam, in a very large extent. In practice this means that we should approach with extreme caution to religion issues, delicately, with tolerance and respect for different views and beliefs. It should be borne in mind that religion is an individual perception of the world; person’s inner feelings are thin, sensitive, easily vulnerable matter. This inflammable material of mankind was used by political forces, different groups or individuals shamelessly and brutally throughout the history in order to manipulate and achieve their goals. Raising banners with slogans in defense of the faith, in the name of the struggle for justice, against atheists and heretics the leaders – impostors have raised masses of people, many of whom were burned in the sacrificial fire military battles. Sometimes among of calling people to struggle were sincere, self-righteous, but blinded by a fanatical adherence to their ideals people. But most of all it was brazen cheaters politicians who manipulated by feelings of offended, humiliated, impoverished, destitute, hungry for comfort and salvation people.

An illustrative and horrific example of this today is the leaders of the so-called ISIS, who are speculating on the discontent of the masses because of difficult socio-economic situation, monstrous corruption, the inability of the authorities to run the country and to overcome lawlessness and injustice.

Western intervention in the affairs of Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Syria plunged the region into chaos. The government and economic institutions and structures in Iraq after the US invasion of 2003 were destroyed, deep smoldering mistrust and disagreement between some religious and ethnic communities were exacerbated, the country was on the verge of total collapse, Libya has become an arena for clashes between rival radical paramilitary groups, a bloody civil war is raging in Yemen which has been aggravated many fold after the invasion and attacks on Yemeni territory by the Saudi aviation.

Flowering rich countries of the Middle East and North Africa have turned to the deserted field of battle, their population is suffering immense suffering of the constant killings – and killed mainly children and women, destruction, persecution, persecution. The Insulted and Injured by the actions of West Muslims have not seen out of the situation: regimes were not able to ensure the aspirations of young people, who accounted for over 70% of the population. This is how the “Arab Spring” was born. Events have pushed the youth of the Islamic world on the path of radicalism.

Stormy Spring of Arab revolutions have aroused particular interest in Islam as a force which has been clearly increased in its influence on the world stage, and in its bowels within Muslim communities happen unprecedented in its depth and severity of violent rethinking processes, revaluation tenets, dogmas, a kind both the Reformation and the renaissance.

Although the peoples of the Arab countries were forced to endure the pressure of the Westernized elites, the vast majority always considered themselves as belonging to Islamic civilization and rejected the implanted western culture. After centuries of stagnation the process of Islamic awakening has began.

However, at this difficult stage Islam has been actively used as a powerful weapon for political purposes. With the help of modern technology leaders of the ISIS “process” the masses, they manage to convince weary and hungry for justice and tranquility to people that the reconstruction of the Caliphate in Middle East – the once-powerful dominant force – is an alternative to the corrupt and anti-democratic regimes of the right path to the security and well-being.

The population of a number of countries at this stage has apprehended Islamists as a viable alternative not only because the rejection and hatred towards the previous government was massive and very deep, but also because the liberal, democratic, left-wing or other party were in a state of confusion and strife, their leaders were obsessed with settling personal scores, competition and were poorly organized. The financial support from rich countries of the Persian Gulf has played an important role in the success of the Islamists and radicals.

It is obvious that the proposed model of the Islamists degenerate today in a barbaric terrorism is a dead-end path that leads only to the degradation and conservation of backwardness. Moreover, terrorism has become the main danger which is threatening all the peoples and States now.

Insidious feature of Islamic radicalism is its ability of mobile clotting and unpredictable unravel, its shimmering and relocating to other areas. This is clearly evidenced by the actions of extremist Islamic groups in Africa, where they begin to develop a new base.

And yet, the world really has changed and continues to change faster. An increasing number of people, even in the most remote areas of the cities, are beginning to understand that religious fanatics are trying to push them to violence, the deaths of innocent people and that is the road to nowhere, and not the way to protect the Faith.

Here we can recall about this historical fact.

In 1967, the microstate of Israel, with the support of the West, defeated the armies of three large size Arab countries – Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The shock of it was so great that as a convincing justification has been easily accepted the thesis that the Arabs were punished because they turned away from God. And only a return to the fundamentals can once again return the Arab nation on the right path, and even recreate the glory of the “golden” century.

The withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and the Mujahideen have attributed the credit for the collapse of the Soviet Union to themselves, and then the subsequent Iranian religious revolution reinforced the illusion that the return to “the right way” will help Muslims to regain the power.

The collapse of the Soviet Union changed the configuration of forces in the world. The ruling circles of the West, in order to keep NATO and to keep afloat the military-industrial complex needed a new enemy: in 1993, the then Belgian NATO Secretary General Class (then he was fired for it) declared that “Islam is a threat to the Western world.”

Attacks of September 11 2001, in America, the bombings on Madrid’s railway station in 2004 and in July 2005 in London showed that the rift between the West and the Islamic world deepens. It turned out that the easiest way to mobilize young people is the playing on religious feelings not nationalistic. Today, is impossible not to agree with the conclusions of some Lebanese political analysts that the current period of rise of religious fanaticism and the intensification of contradictions with the West is unlikely to be short: even if we assume that tomorrow “Islamic state” will be militarily defeated.

In today’s world, when many ideas about familiar affairs are collapsing, the pace of change is sharply increased, power relations are rapidly changing and the old authorities are weakened, under conditions of frequent natural disasters, social unrest, the ordinary people feel helpless before the smashing power of the elements and the ruthless authority and they turn to religion as the “last” hope, the source of consolation, believing that they will find support, will be able to understand the meaning of existence.

According to a number of contemporary scholars current religions increasingly seem in a kind of an anchor in a stormy world of passions where natural conditions and climate are changing, where the political and social instability become almost the main feature of the development.

This is most clearly seen in the background of falling popularity of traditional centrist parties and the emergence of new trends and movements that criticize traditional politicians.

In the Philippines it is a victory of Rodrigo Duterte, in Poland it is sometimes wild actions of “Party of Law and Justice.” We see strengthening of radicalist trends on the right wing and on the left. In the US it is a phenomenon of Bernie Sanders, the convincing victory of Jeremy Corbin in the British Labor Party, the expansion of positions of “Syriza” in Greece and “Podemos” in Spain.

These movements are directed against the establishment, against lawlessness and truly barbaric attitude of the ruling authorities to ordinary people: workers, students, pensioners, young families.

Now, despite repeated calls for tolerance the inter-religious relations are being aggravated. This is manifested in the aggravation of disagreements between Sunnis and Shiites. This is illustrated in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the settlement of which is becoming more difficult, since both sides are gaining weight of religious elements. (The influence of religious communities is increasing in Israel. Religion is increasingly linked to security, and the country is becoming one of the most religious in the world: Judaism accompanies the citizen from birth to death, regardless whether he is a believer, or an agnostic or an atheist. According to the magazine “Le Monde Diplomatique” for October 2016 religion is more associated with safety and imposes its concepts and the authorities exaggerate the danger: external threats and terrorism justify the demand for a “national unity”, which strengthens the role of the state and the synagogues. Israel in 2015 was in the sixth place of the world in terms of the size of the military budget – 15.6 billion. This is 6.2 of GDP. For this indicator Tel Aviv is second after Saudi Arabia). There is a growing alienation between the West and the Islamic world.

Europeans after the terrorist attacks in France are concerned about the preservation of identity. As noted by the website of “Al Jazeera” on 10/03/2016, the thesis that “French is a European, white and Catholic is relevant to the statement of the medieval period.” However, these are the words of Robert Menard in 2016, the elected French politician, mayor of the city of Beziers. It is noteworthy that N. Sarkozy, who intends to run for the 2017 presidential elections, describes France as a country of “churches, temples, monasteries and crosses, a Christian country by its culture and habits.” (The campaign against wearing the hijab by Muslim women is well known). “Muslim women who wear the burqa can be compared with the American blacks who accept slavery.”

The British magazine “The Economist” on 10/02/2016 has drew the conclusion that the “separation of the church from the state is becoming more subtle, in the US although prayer in schools is prohibited, however, under various pretexts, many concessions, especially Protestants and Jews want “drag” their own symbols.” Spirituality is a private matter. Basic values are eternal, but their understanding is dependent on age. (For example, slavery was a fact; the humane treatment of slaves was fair. Today, slavery is not allowed.)

One can agree with the opinion of some scientists that the role of traditional ethnic religions in society is not increased, but the role of faith does not become smaller, and perhaps it grows. A number of people who believe in God, but do not profess any particular religion are increasing. The influence of the religion was not increased, but the use of religion has been intensified, the desire and attempts to use it in a sharpening of the struggle for markets and sources of raw materials, for the expansion of influence in different parts of the world, the achievement of political objectives. In an age of moral crisis the spiritual power of society and every individual is intensified. Fear of losing a job, the constant lack of money and time, price growth. The stress of the city reinforces the frustration, depression, fatigue, loss of strength, and as a consequence of the desire to find a way out of time pressure.

The world stands on the threshold of the titanic shifts, moving from the bipolar and monopolar world order to objectively emerging polycentric democratic system of international relations. In this regard, S.V. Lavrov in his speech at the UNGA session emphasized the need to change the philosophy of interstate communication, eliminating the attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of States, to impose a model of development of countries and peoples. This certainly includes respect for the feelings of believers, their beliefs, traditions and customs.

Many intelligent speeches and interesting proposals were made in our scientific and practical conference. I think we need to put more emphasis on the idea, launched by our Kazakh friends and some of our most eminent scientists that a purely military action is not enough to defeat Islamist terrorism. It is necessary to unite efforts of politicians, religious leaders, scientists and representatives of culture in order to discredit slogans and activities of extremists in the eyes of some part of the Muslim youth.