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JRL-The rise of Russian Muslims worries Orthodox Church

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  • Uli Schamiloglu
    Johnson s Russia List #9219 8 August 2005 davidjohnson@erols.com and davidjohnson@starpower.net A CDI Project/World Security Institute www.cdi.org
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 8, 2005
      Johnson's Russia List
      8 August 2005
      davidjohnson@... and
      A CDI Project/World Security Institute
      www.cdi.org www.worldsecurityinstitute.org

      The Times (UK)
      August 5, 2005
      The rise of Russian Muslims worries Orthodox Church
      From Jeremy Page in Moscow

      THE religious leader of Russia's Muslims has alarmed Russian Orthodox
      Church leaders and ultra-nationalists by asserting that the country now has
      23 million indigenous Muslims ­ at least 3 million more than previously

      According to the last census, three years ago, about 14.5 million of
      Russia's 144 million population were ethnic Muslims. For several years
      religious leaders have put the number at nearer 20 million.

      But Ravil Gaynutdin, chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, said this
      week that the number of ethnic Muslims in Russia was 23 million and was
      growing fast. "They are indigenous residents of our country, not migrants
      or immigrants, and have been living here from time immemorial," he told a
      meeting of the European Union of Muslims. "The number of people professing
      Islam in Russia is constantly growing."

      Russia is also home to an estimated 3 million to 4 million Muslim migrants
      from former Soviet states ­ roughly 2 million Azeris, a million Kazakhs and
      several hundred thousands Uzbeks, Tajiks and Kyrgyz.

      Some Russians are also converting to Islam, according to Sheikh Farid
      Asadullin, of the Moscow Council of Muftis. "Ethnic Russians, Ukrainians
      and Belarussians, mostly young and intelligent, see in Islam an answer to
      their questions," he told The Times.

      Islam was strictly controlled in the Soviet Union, which had only 500
      mosques, but has enjoyed a renaissance since 1991, helped by funds from the
      Middle East. Russia alone now has some 5,000 mosques.

      The rise in the Muslim population has raised fears among Russian Orthodox
      Church leaders and ultra-nationalists that Russia could one day become a
      Muslim-majority nation. The Church claims to have 80 million followers, but
      religious experts say the number is closer to 40 million and on the wane.

      Russia's overall population is declining, due in part to the adverse
      effects of high alcohol consumption, but numbers are rising in Muslim
      regions, where large families are common and alcohol consumption is more
      moderate. Russia's total population dropped by 401,200 in the first half of
      this year, but the population rose in 15 regions, including the republics
      of Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia.

      Rosstat, the state statistics agency, said the average birth rate per woman
      was 1.8 in Dagestan, compared with 1.3 for all of Russia, while male life
      expectancy was 68 in Dagestan, against 58 for all Russia.

      Aleksei Malashenko, an expert on Islam in Russia, said: "The real problem
      is the crisis of the Russian population, not the increase of the Muslim
      population. And, of course, the Church is not so powerful or so significant
      for Russians as Islam is for Muslims. This doesn't mean that Russia will
      become a Muslim society in several years, although maybe in half a century
      we'll see something surprising."

      In the short term, the trend was likely to affect only the North Caucasus,
      where the proportion of ethnic Russians was already dropping rapidly, and
      Moscow, where the proportion of Muslims was rising, he said.

      Russian forces have been fighting Chechen rebels for more than a decade and
      the bloodshed is now spilling into neighbouring republics and radicalising
      many young Muslims.

      Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's first Deputy Prime Minister, announced plans
      this week to build Europe's largest mosque in the Chechen capital, Grozny,
      to try to attract people to mainstream Islam.

      Moscow, a regular target for Chechen rebel attacks in the past two years,
      is home to an estimated 1.5 million Muslims, including about 100,000
      Chechens, who are often harassed by police and skinheads.

      Mr Malashenko said: "Islamophobia and xenophobia are on the rise. We can
      already see the effects with several nationalist groups. Despite all the
      conflicts, the situation is quite stable, but I don't believe it will stay
      the same."

      Uli Schamiloglu
      Professor of Turkic & Central Eurasian Studies
      Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia
      1254 Van Hise, 1220 Linden Drive
      Madison, WI 53706 USA
      tel. 1-608-262-7141 (office), 1-608-262-3012 (department), 1-608-265-3538 (fax)
      Email: uschamil@...
      LCA website: <http://lca.wisc.edu/>lca.wisc.edu
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