FaithWorld

Russia’s Muslim elite vows to tackle Islamist extremism

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(Russia's chief Mufti Ravil Gaynutdin in Moscow February 10, 2011/Sergei Karpukhin)

Russia’s Muslims on Thursday set up a council of experts to devise ways to tackle extremism, two weeks after a suicide bomb attack on the country’s busiest airport killed 36.  Earlier this week Islamist leader Doku Umarov said he had ordered the devastating attack on Moscow’s Domodedovo airport.

“People need to be protected from extremism and terrorism, and educated away from this,” said Ravil Gaynutdin, the chief Mufti of Russia, which is home to some 20 million Muslims, or a seventh of the population. “These experts will play a very important role towards making things better… for Muslims to be more involved in Russian society,” Gaynutdin, clad in a flowing black robe and crowned by a silk white hat, told Reuters in an interview before chairing the council’s first meeting.

He added that the council, comprised of 38 Russian Muslims involved in politics, law and media, will regularly meet to analyse how Muslims live in today’s Russia and make recommendations to government on how their lives can improve. Initiatives could include offering religious guidance to Muslim youths, setting up sports clubs, building more mosques and making sure Muslim literature is easy to find. russia muslim 2

(Victims of a bomb explosion at Moscow's Domodedovo airport in this image taken from mobile phone footage January 24, 2011/Djem79/Reuters TV)

Russian Orthodox Church clergy allowed to enter politics

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(President Dmitry Medvedev (C, bottom row), Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill (2nd R, bottom row) and Russian Orthodox Church hierarchs at the Kremlin in Moscow February 3, 2011/Alexander Nemenov)

Russia’s Orthodox Church has allowed its clergy to enter politics in certain cases, in the latest sign of its growing presence in Russia’s secular society. Endorsed by Kremlin leaders as Russia’s main faith, the Church has grown increasingly powerful since communism fell two decades ago. Its role has drawn criticism from human rights groups who say it undermines Russia’s constitution.

On Thursday, President Dmitry Medvedev backed a decision by the Church to allow clergy to enter politics in certain cases. “The Russian Orthodox church is the largest and the most respected social institution in the modern Russia,” Medvedev told top clergy visiting the Kremlin.

In Moscow, Orthodox Christian churches draw closer

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (C), Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill (R) and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I meet in Moscow's Kremlin, May 25, 2010/Dmitry Astakhov

President Dmitry Medvedev warmly welcomed the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians Tuesday, hailing improving ties between Russia’s powerful church and its ancestor faith.  Relations among the Orthodox have improved after past strains when churches in former Soviet states such as Estonia and Ukraine broke away from the Russian mother church and tried to pledge allegiance to the patriarch in Istanbul.

“The visit of your Holiness is a significant event and, beyond all doubt, it will help strengthen the dialogue which always linked the two sisterly churches,” Medvedev told Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, according to a transcript published by the Kremlin.

Medvedev turns to Muslim clerics to counter Islamist radicals

grozny-mosquePresident Dmitry Medvedev has urged Russia’s top Muslim clerics to join forces to stop radical Islamist groups wooing young people in the turbulent North Caucasus. (Photo: Main mosque in Grozny, capital of  Caucasus region of Chechnya, 17 May 2008/Said Tsarnayev)

“We cannot force people to give up Internet or close (Islamist) sites,” he told clerics and regional leaders at his summer residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.  “We need to think about finding a (television) channel which would offer teaching and comprehensive explanation of Islam that is traditional for our country.”

Medvedev also proposed stronger control over young people returning to Russia after studying Islam abroad. “Unfortunately these people are returning … (and) bring back unorthodox views on Islam,” he said.

Russia’s Medvedev calls on muftis to combat extremism

medvedevRussian President Dmitry Medvedev, battling a low-level Muslim insurgency in Russia’s south, has met Muslim leaders and asked them to spread a message of tolerance to combat Islamist extremism.

Medvedev met 12 muftis, Muslim spiritual leaders, from across the country on Wednesday in the pre-revolutionary Congregational Mosque in central Moscow, said by Muslims to be one of the oldest in European Russia. (Photo: President Medvedev (L) and Chief Mufti Ravil Gaynutdin in Moscow, 15 July 2009/RIA Novosti)

Although the Kremlin has calmed the province of Chechnya by installing a strong local leader, violence has flared in other areas of the volatile, poverty-ridden North Caucasus. Killings of police and local officials are on the rise.