Shamil Kashaf: "Baku has become one of the most important global capitals - the center for making both political and religious decisions"
An International Symposium on Islamic Civilization in the Caucasus started in Baku. The event is organized by the Theology Institute of Azerbaijan, the Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Institute of Oriental Studies named after Academician Buniyatov. Scientists, researchers and experts on Islamic civilization from Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia, Iran, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Moldova, USA, Australia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia came to the forum.
On the sidelines of the forum, Vestnik Kavkaza talked with a member of the Public Council of the FSIN of Russia, Fellow of the Research Center for Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Ural-Volga Region, the head of the Islamica Islamic Heritage Center, Shamil Kashaf.
- Shamil Ravilyevich, why is it important for Islamists to participate in such international symposia?
- The participation in the symposium provides an excellent opportunity for us, representatives of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, to discuss with the representatives of the Theology Institute of Azerbaijan the main parameters of the networking agreement, which we hope to sign on September 26-27 in Kazan within the framework of the Islam in a Multicultural World Forum held by the Kazan Federal University together with the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Ten academic institutions and Islamic institutions in a number of countries have already expressed their desire to sign the agreement, in particular, the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Oriental Studies named after Academician Buniyatov, the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan, Kazan Federal University, which is among the top Russian universities, the Moscow State Linguistic University, Dagestan State University, Russian Islamic Institute, Dagestan Humanitarian Institute, the Theology Institute of Azerbaijan. We will also make an offer to our colleagues from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
- What does this networking agreement provide?
- Active development of academic research in the framework of the study of Islamic civilization, which, by the way, corresponds to the stated theme of our international symposium. The Institute of Oriental Studies has already signed an agreement with Kazan Federal University on the opening of the basic department for the study of Islamic civilization. The head of this department will be Alekper Alekperov, the deputy director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the scientific director of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vitaly Naumkin, will be in charge of it. On June 12, in the Kremlin, he was awarded by President Putin the sign of Laureate of the Russian State Prize for his achievements in the field of Islamic and Oriental studies. In the field of humanities, the leadership of Russia awards a prize only once every three years. Now we have seen that the concept of the Kremlin "Turning to the East" is confirmed, among other things, by such great attention to research in the field of Islamic and Oriental studies. The political establishment of the Arab-Muslim and Turkic worlds should come to the understanding that Russia is largely open to the Turkic world, embodying the concept of "Turning to the East", in particular, in the field of academic research.
- In terms of the interaction of Islamic scholars, is it only scientific research or are there educational projects?
- For us, it is important to develop not only academic and research programs together with the Theology Institute of Azerbaijan, but we will also build a separate interaction trajectory through educational programs. We want to start internships for students of the Azerbaijan Theological Institute in Russia. We have a great opportunity to prepare source scientists and historiographers. A huge potential has been accumulated at the ANAS Institute of Oriental Studies, with which we closely cooperate. Under these programs, we will also prepare graduate students and doctoral candidates from Azerbaijan, Russia and Uzbekistan, using our network platform. This platform will provide an opportunity to initiate a project to create a Council on Islamic Education in the CIS countries. Now there is a Council on Islamic Education in Russia, but we would like this project to go beyond the borders of the Russian Federation and unite the efforts of other participants in the educational process as part of the training the Muslim clergymen. Then it will be possible to unify educational programs and convert diplomas obtained in Islamic institutions of Azerbaijan. With these diplomas one could find work and be in demand in the Muslim ummah of other CIS countries, using the potential that has been accumulated in the theological space of Azerbaijan, Tatarstan, Uzbekistan in Russia, etc.
- On what level are the relations between Russian Muslims and Muslims living in the South Caucasus? Do the leaders of Russian Muslims have a thoughtful policy in this area?
- There are more than 80 muftiates in Russia - centralized religious organizations. However, there are few muftis, who head the key religious communities - the mufti of the Central Spiritual Board of Muslims of Russia, Sheikh Talgat Hazrat Tajuddin; the Chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Ravil Hazrat Gainutdin; Albir Hazrat Krganov, who heads the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia. If we are talking about republics, then in Tatarstan, it is Kamil Hazrat Samigullin, in the Chechen Republic, the mufti of Chechnya is Salakh-haji Mezhiyev, and in the Republic of Dagestan, the mufti is Ahmad Abdulaev. There is, undoubtedly, another important figure - the Mufti of Crimea, Haji Emirali Ablaev, as well as a number of respected muftis who are the subjects of the Russian ummah development.
If we are talking about the interaction with Azerbaijan and other territories of the South Caucasus, then not all muftis are active in this area. Albir Hazrat Krganov is distinguished by his special attitude to the building of very precise, well-adjusted and warm relations with Sheikh Allahshukur Pashazade. They have met many times. Albir Hazrat Krganov accompanied Allahshukur Pashazade during his audience with His Holiness Patriarch Cyril. Allahshukur Pashazade received assurances from His Holiness the Patriarch that the Azerbaijani diaspora in Russia will have an opportunity to build a Shiite mosque. Allahshukur Pashazade’s natural authority greatly contributed to this decision. His authority is unconditionally supported and accepted by all muftis in Russia.
Albir Hazrat Krganov has recently been quite actively pursuing a policy of building relations between the Azerbaijani spiritual authority and the Patriarch. I would also positively assess the activities of the Chechen Mufti Salakh-haji Mezhiyev, who often invites Allahshukur Pashazade to events in Grozny. A few years ago, I participated in the fatwa meeting in Grozny, Allahshukur Pashazade was also invited there. And recently, I was one of the hosts of the conference organized by the World Islamic League together with the Chechen Muftiat in Grozny, and Allahshukur Pashazade was one of the most honored guests there. Any invitation of Allahshukur Pashazade as an honorary guest to the large and significant Islamic events in Russia is evidence that he is a key figure in the Islamic world. On the territory of the former CIS, it would be short-sighted to disregard the position of Allahshukur Pashazade, because he is a wise theologian, religious leader, and also an experienced politician. His authority is truly indisputable - not only representatives of Shiite communities but also leaders of Sunni Islamic organizations consider his opinion.
- Are political contacts being maintained between clergymen?
- Now there is an idea to hold a meeting or forum on Islamic education at the level of CIS ministers of education, CIS deputy ministers. The venue of such a meeting can be Azerbaijan - a dynamic republic of a secular nature with an Islamic component, where there is a tolerant attitude towards all religions. Today, theology in Russia has already been accepted as a scientific discipline and entered into the list of Higher Attestation Commission, thesis works are being prepared on this topic. Islamic theology received a specialty passport. Educational programs in theology are implemented according to the federal state educational standards with the issuance of state diplomas to graduates who have completed the educational program, and in parallel, there is an Islamic education system where madrasas, Islamic institutes and Islamic academy work. It is necessary that these two subsystems work coordinated not only in Russia but also in the CIS space. The ministries could encourage such work not only within their own states but also in the CIS space. If such a conference is held in Azerbaijan, it would be great to invite the rectors of Islamic and federal universities as well as ministerial officials from the CIS countries as participants. Baku could be a center for making such a decision, given the educational possibilities and excellent traditions of hospitality.
- How do you assess the professional dialogue that is taking place now in Baku?
- Azerbaijan is a great example of how people can coexist on the territory of one state, despite their national and ethnic identity, as well as confessional and religious differences. Here, it is impossible to witness a clash of the non-Islamic religion with some obstacles. The interaction between the leadership of the Islamic ummah of Azerbaijan, headed by respected Allahshukur Pashazade and the political leadership of the republic, makes it possible to assess the powerful potential of the Azerbaijani people and other peoples inhabiting the republic for the dynamic development of the country. Today, it is not the most effective way to follow the path of monoethnicity without taking into account the accumulated experience, excellent potential that other nations and other religions have. If countries with a strong Islamic component are building their lives in accordance with the Quran, then it is completely wrong to disregard the appeal that was sent by Allah through his last prophet. In this sense, Baku has become one of the most important capitals of the world - a center for both financial, political and religious decisions. Allahshukur Pashazade, being the head of the Azerbaijani Muslim Ummah, is a global leader, whose opinion is considered. His wise policy of building relationships with other confessions, both in Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union, gives impetus to the development of the ummah as a whole.