Credit: Kremlin.ru

The agenda of our today's meeting with the prime minister featured another issue which falls outside of our bilateral ties. The Russian Muslim community is 20 million people exceeding that of Malaysia, which is considered a Muslim nation.

In this regard, I told him that Russia should be somehow represented at the OIC, at first as an observer. He promised to throw his support behind this idea. Hopefully, when your country takes over chairmanship, we would have the support of your government. 
 
 
August 6, 2003, Kuala Lumpur.
 
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Most terrible of all was that the people who came here bearing arms brought with them a perverted interpretation of the Koran that goes absolutely against the traditions of the peoples of the Russian North Caucasus. Not only did they pervert the Koran in their interpretations, but they discredited it in their deeds. At least, they attempted to discredit it, for it is not possible to discredit Islam, a world-wide religion infused with humanist ideals.
 
But there were people who looked at all that was happening, people who saw these problems and negative tendencies, who realised that this was a dead-end road that would take their people nowhere, and who used this realisation to make the courageous decision, the only possible decision, namely, that freedom, independence and prosperity can be achieved only together with a free and prosperous Russia.
 
 
 
Russia has always been the best and most reliable partner and ally. In trying to destroy Russia, these people are undermining one of the Muslim world’s main sources of support in the fight for the legitimate rights of the Islamic world on the international stage. But those who organise these activities are probably acting deliberately, consciously aware of the aims they are trying to achieve.
 
 
Address to the First Session of the Parliament of the Republic of Chechnya
December 12, 2005, Grozny.
 
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Moscow. We know that you made a great personal contribution to ensuring that Russia obtained the status of observer in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, and we are very grateful to you for this because the millions of Russian citizens who are members of the Muslim faith have the right to feel that they are an organic part of the Muslim world.
 
 
Secondly, developing relations with the Islamic world is one of our country’s main foreign policy priorities. This is because we are deeply convinced that the division of the world along religious and civilisational lines is far more dangerous than divisions based on economic principles.
 
 
Meeting with Secretary-General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu
June 7, 2006, Moscow.
 
 
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225 years ago Russian Empress Catherine the Great issued a decree establishing the Muslim Spiritual Assembly here in Ufa. As you can see, Islam was officially recognised as one of Russia’s traditional religions by the Tsarist authorities.
 
Russia, a country where a majority of the population was Orthodox Christians, had acted as an example of religious tolerance and sagacity for both Europe and the world at that time. This decision was in line with our entire national history, which has never known religious wars and conflicts. It followed naturally from our experience building a multi-ethnic and multi-faith state, a unique civilisation connecting East and West, Asia and Europe.
 
People of different nationalities worked together to create a huge, great state, one in which every nation and ethnic group retained its own identity.
 
Deep mutual understanding and the interpenetration of cultures, as well as the respectful dialogue between representatives of traditional religions have shaped our spiritual unity. This unity is further founded on shared moral values such as justice, truth, hard work, respect for our loved ones, patriotism and love for our shared fatherland, which is the same for all.
 
 
 
Islam is an outstanding element of Russia’s cultural makeup, an integral, organic part of our history. We know and remember the names of many Muslims who have contributed to the glory of our common fatherland: state and public figures, scientists, entrepreneurs, cultural and artistic figures, and valiant warriors.
 
The Muslim communities’ and Muslim religious leaders’ work has great importance. It is our task to educate young people in a spirit of mutual respect based on feelings of being fellow citizens, patriotism and a shared national identity.
 
For Muslims, neighbours are the same as brothers. All the peoples of our multi-ethnic country value these sincere feelings. Where people and religions can live as good neighbours and cooperate, peace will always triumph. Harmony and stability in our society are the guarantee of our homeland’s successful and prosperous future.
 
 
Address at the 225th Anniversary of the Central Spiritual Administration of Russian Muslims
October 22, 2013, Ufa.
 
 
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Today in Ufa we are celebrating the 225th anniversary of the foundation of the Muslim Spiritual Assembly established by imperial decree. As you can see, at the end of the 18th century, Islam was officially recognised as a traditional Russian religion. Naturally, this helped Muslims become true Russian patriots. 
 
Some political parties are using Islam, or rather its radical tendencies (which, incidentally, are historically foreign to Russian Muslims), in order to weaken our state, to create zones of so-called externally driven conflicts in Russian territory, to encourage dissent between different ethnic groups and within the Muslim community, and to fan separatist sympathies in the regions.
 
However, Russian Muslims have always been united in their service to society and the state, and against external enemies and all forms of extremism. I am sure that this unity can be maintained and strengthened, even today. 
 
I also believe that the voice of Russian Muslim leaders should resonate louder in the international arena, among the global Islamic community. Today tensions between the West and the Islamic world are on the rise. Some people try to play with this issue and throw fuel on the fire. I want to tell you straight away: we are not interested in this. 
 
 
But at the same time, today Russia’s presence is in increased demand in the Middle East and the Islamic world as a whole. And we need to be more proactive, debunking harmful attempts to manipulate humanity using countries and peoples, information and public consciousness. 
 
Russia is not interested in splitting up or redrawing the Islamic world; on the contrary, it maintains a consistent, steady position in favour of strengthening its unity. 
 
In order to successfully meet the challenges of our time it is necessary, first of all, to ensure the high credibility of Russia’s Muslim clergy and its Islamic theological school. 
 
Based on centuries of national experience in religious education and its rich theological heritage, Russian Islam has everything necessary to have its say in development. Therefore, one of our most important tasks is to reconstruct our own Islamic theological school, which will ensure the sovereignty of Russia’s spiritual space. And most importantly, it will be recognised by the majority of international Muslim scholars. Such a school must respond to the most recent developments in Russia and the world, and evaluate them in ways that are both understandable and credible for believers. I am sure that if we can achieve this, it will help you to provide a clear moral assessment of both good and criminal acts.
 
All this will allow us to resolve problems with translating theological and popular publications by foreign authors into Russian, ensuring the academic translation of key Muslim religious texts into Russian.
 
It is also imperative to create religious law institutions capable of providing a qualified assessment of a particular text. These institutions should be open to Islamic spiritual leaders as well as experts in law and linguistics. I feel we certainly can and should get international experts in that domain involved in this work. That way, the Russian Islamic community will be able to independently prevent the spread of publications of destructive, extremist nature.
 
Today, as you also know, it is mainly the government, which is forced to take prohibitive measures with regard to such literature; but as you know, this is not always successful, and indeed, often has the opposite effect. Prohibitions do not work well, or have the opposite effect from the one desired. We need to convince people and explain to them what is right and good, and what constitutes lies and hatred.
 
I also feel that the Muslim organisations themselves should not prioritise internal discussions and debates about supremacy, which sometimes happens, but instead, what’s really important – developing a positive image of traditional Islam as an important spiritual component of Russia’s identity.
 
This has enormous significance in educating young people, which is critical for both Muslims and the entire nation, and it is extremely important for Muslim youth which, unfortunately, has long been the target audience for those who wish us ill.
 
Russian Muslim religious organisations have every opportunity to position themselves broadly through modern media. And friends, I am asking you to take advantage of these opportunities to work on resolving many of the challenges I just listed, of which you are well aware and which we have raised many times and discussed at meetings like this one and even broader gatherings.
 
 
Remarks at the meeting with muftis of Russia
October 22, 2013, Ufa.
 
 
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Let me congratulate you from all my heart on the opening of Moscow’s rebuilt Cathedral Mosque. This is a big event for all Muslims in Russia.
 
One of Moscow’s oldest mosques stood on this historical site and has undergone reconstruction that now makes it the biggest in Europe. It was given a magnificent modern new look worthy of the capital of our united, multi-ethnic and multi-confessional country. This new mosque is worthy of Russia, in which, I want to stress, Islam, under our country’s law, is one of Russia’s traditional religions, with millions of our citizens counting themselves among its followers.
 
I am sure that the mosque will become a major spiritual centre for Muslims in Moscow and throughout Russia, providing education and spreading humanistic ideas and the true and authentic values of Islam. It will spread knowledge and spirituality and will help to unite the efforts of Muslims and people of other faiths too in common worthy causes. The Quran tells us to try to outdo each other in doing good.
 
 
Right from its creation, Russia has always been a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional country. This mutual enrichment of different cultures, traditions and religions has always been our country’s distinguishing feature and strength. Moscow’s Muslim community, for example, emerged back in mediaeval times, and this is reflected in the Tatar roots of many of the capital’s street names.
 
The traditions of enlightened Islam developed over many centuries in Russia. The fact that different peoples and religions live peacefully together in Russia is in large part thanks to the Muslim community, which has made a worthy contribution to preserving harmony in our society and has always strived to build relations within and between religions based on tolerance for each other’s faiths.
 
Today, traditional Islam is an integral part of Russia’s spiritual life. Islam’s humanist values, like the values of our other traditional religions, teach people compassion, justice and care for our loved ones. We place great value on these things.
 
The number of mosques and Islamic cultural centres has increased greatly in Russia over the last 20 years. Amazingly beautiful mosques have been built in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Chechnya and other Russian regions. In 2003, our country became a permanent observer in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. Thousands of pilgrims from Russia make the hajj, and the number of madrasas and schools attached to mosques has also increased greatly.
 
It is important to educate Muslim youth in traditional Islamic values and prevent attempts to impose on us world outlooks that are alien to us and have nothing to do with genuine Islam. Let me say that the authorities will continue to assist in reviving Russia’s system of Islamic theological schools and religious education.
 
As you know, I supported the Tatarstan authorities and the principal Muslim spiritual bodies on the issue of establishing the Bulgar Islamic Academy, thus reviving this ancient Russian Muslim centre of religion and learning.
 
Of course, we must continue expanding the network of Muslim cultural and educational centres. Their aim is to bring Muslims together, impart to them the spiritual, cultural and moral code inherent to traditional Islam in Russia, help to resolve common problems, and take part in youth education.
 
I note the big role that Muslims and above all their spiritual leaders play in strengthening interethnic and interfaith harmony. Their rejection and condemnation of all forms of fundamentalism and radicalism have made a major contribution to the fight against nationalism and religious extremism.
Work in this area is all the more important today, when we see attempts to cynically exploit religious feelings for political aims.
 
We see what is happening in the Middle East (this has been mentioned here today too), where terrorists from the so-called Islamic State are compromising a great world religion, compromising Islam, sowing hatred, killing people, including clergy, and barbarically destroying monuments of world culture. Their ideology is built on lies and blatant distortions of Islam.
 
It is important to educate Muslim youth in traditional Islamic values and prevent attempts to impose on us world outlooks that are alien to us and have nothing to do with genuine Islam.
 
They are trying to recruit followers here in Russia too. Russia’s Muslim leaders are bravely and fearlessly using their own influence to resist this extremist propaganda. I want to express my tremendous respect for these people who carry out their work heroically and have suffered losses. I have no doubt that they will continue to educate the faithful in the spirit of humanism, compassion and justice.
 
 
Remarks at the Opening of Moscow’s Cathedral Mosque
September 23, 2015, Moscow.
 
 
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Today, we provide military-technical assistance to Iraq, Syria and other regional countries fighting terrorist groups. We think it’s a big mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian authorities and government forces who valiantly fight terrorists on the ground.
 
We should finally admit that President Assad’s government forces and the Kurdish militia are the only forces really fighting terrorists in Syria. Yes, we are aware of all the problems and conflicts in the region, but we definitely have to consider the actual situation on the ground.
 
We must join efforts to address the problems that all of us are facing, and create a genuinely broad international coalition against terrorism. 
 
Dear colleagues, I must note that such an honest and frank approach on Russia’s part has been recently used as a pretext for accusing it of its growing ambitions — as if those who say that have no ambitions at all. However, it is not about Russia’s ambitions, dear colleagues, but about the recognition of the fact that we can no longer tolerate the current state of affairs in the world.
 
 
What we actually propose is to be guided by common values and common interests rather than by ambitions. Relying on international law, we must join efforts to address the problems that all of us are facing, and create a genuinely broad international coalition against terrorism. Similar to the anti-Hitler coalition, it could unite a broad range of parties willing to stand firm against those who, just like the Nazis, sow evil and hatred of humankind. And of course, Muslim nations should play a key role in such a coalition, since Islamic State not only poses a direct threat to them, but also tarnishes one of the greatest world religions with its atrocities. The ideologues of these extremists make a mockery of Islam and subvert its true humanist values.
 
I would also like to address Muslim spiritual leaders: Your authority and your guidance are of great importance right now. It is essential to prevent people targeted for recruitment by extremists from making hasty decisions, and those who have already been deceived and, due to various circumstances, found themselves among terrorists, must be assisted in finding a way back to normal life, laying down arms and putting an end to fratricide.
 
 
September 28, 2015, New York.