MUSLIMS IN RUSSIA: WHO ARE THEY?!

Ravil GAINUTDIN


Ravil Gainutdin, Mufti sheikh, Chairman of the Russian Council of Muftis, Chairman of the Muslim Spiritual Administration of the European Part of Russia


Our country recently celebrated the beginning of a new millennium and a milestone in the life of the Russian Ummahthe 1400th anniversary of the acceptance of Islam by nations living on the territory of present-day Russia. At the same time, the tragic events which occurred in Moscow and Buinaksk in 1999 and in New York and Washington in 2001, the hostilities in Afghanistan, and the attempts of many mass media to draw a connection between the new challenges and threats and the Islamic faith have aroused mistrust and fear of Islam among a certain percentage of Russian citizens. In so doing, analysts, politicians, journalists, and some members of the academic community are inclined at times to view the Islamic factor in the world and in the Russian Federation as a new threat to the security of contemporary societies. The Muslim religious figures in our country cannot accept this conclusion.

I do not think that the Islamic factor, which reflects the practical activity of Russian Muslim organizations, can be seen as a threat to Russian society. Muslims have lived in Russia for many centuries alongside the representatives of other traditional confessions, participating jointly in the creation of its economic and spiritual potential and supporting the countrys leadership in its efforts to become a full-fledged member of the world community. This means that attempts at the political level to associate any religion with extremism cannot be constructive either for the state, or for society.

The problems facing the Russian Islamic organizations themselves are caused by the absence of scientific data on Muslims as an intrinsic part of Russian society and by societys ignorance of the specific features which characterize the lifestyle, life values, and behavior motives of Muslims under the conditions of present-day Russia. Therefore, the Russian Council of Muftis decided to conduct a sociological poll called Muslims in Russia: Who Are They? Groups of Muslims from the European part of Russia (the Moscow Region, Kostroma, Naberezhnye Chelny, Penza, Perm, and Iaroslavl), who regularly attend the mosque, were selected as the target of the poll. The study focused on the life values of Russian Muslims as a basis for their subsequent behavior, and its ultimate aim was to identify the role of Islam as a way of life in forming the life values of Russian Muslims and to determine the degree to which they are guided by these values.

The hypothesis was put forward and fully confirmed that although the life values of Muslims have certain special features, they do not contradict the nature, character, and trends of Russian society. The Ummah is an intrinsic attribute of Russian society. The poll was aimed at carrying out four specific tasks: defining the life values and behavior motives of Russian Muslims and the place Islam occupies among these values; conducting an analysis of the extent to which different Muslim groups are willing to carry out certain kinds of social action; making an approximate forecast of the social behavior of the Russian Muslim Ummah; and offering the Muslim spiritual administrations possible ways to have a stabilizing influence on the Ummah.

We believe that the poll results could be beneficial for the Muslim spiritual administrations in the Volga Region and the Northern Caucasus. This article will review only two aspects of the poll conducted: age as a factor in the different world outlooks and behavior of Russian Muslims and special features of the religious life of todays Russian Muslims.

1. The Islamic Understanding of Society

According to Islam, all human beings form a single family created by God, and their actions are dependent on His will.

Mankind was but one nation, but differed (later). Had it not been for a word that went forth before from your Lord, their differences would have been settled between them (Koran, 10:19).

Islam does not divide people into better and worse and does not assert the exclusiveness of any person by origin or gender alone:

O mankind, We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Surely the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (He who is) the most righteous of you (Koran, 49:13).

The Almighty says:

Surely, this Ummah of yours is a single Ummah, and I am your Lord and Cherisher: therefore serve Me! (Koran, 21:92).

Historically, Muslims in Russia identified themselves primarily as Muslims, that is as Ummah, and not as the members of some territorial or linguistic community. When filling out official documents during the Russian empire, people were asked to state their confession, and not nationality. At present, due to the revival in spirituality, affiliation to a particular nation or nationality is correlated in Muslims with identifying themselves as part of a single Russian religious community. In this respect, we can talk about a revival in the concept of the Muslim Ummah of Russia.

Due to migration, Muslims have settled throughout the entire country. Today, Russia is not only an Orthodox, but also a reviving Muslim nation, which has more believers in Islam than many Muslim countries.

2. The Religious Life of Todays Russian Muslims

There can be no doubt that Islam is undergoing a revival in present-day Russia as part of the overall religious revival. A scientific analysis and study of this problem encounters various difficulties. Along with the trends which exist objectively in contemporary Islam, we need to understand that religion today is not only the performance of rites, but primarily fills a spiritual niche for educated people, whose need to attend the mosque is dictated not simply by identifying themselves with Muslim religious traditions, but also with changes in world outlook and world perception. This explains the increase in number of believers among the most educated citizens of our country, including among Russians.

This thesis is supported not only by the quantitative rise in registered religious communities, but also by the growing interest in religious education and the interest (at times mercantile) of politicians and political structures in religion, which also confirms a religious revival. As a social institution, religion establishes rules of conduct and regulates the relationships between people. A preliminary analysis of the poll data makes it possible to reveal the extent to which religious values and traditions influence the world outlook and conduct of Russian Muslims.

Parishioners under the age of 35 made up almost half of the respondents, while the other 54% were people older than 35. The educational level of those who attend the mosque looks as follows: 15% of the respondents have incomplete secondary education, 31% have secondary education, 27% have secondary specialized education, and the same amount (27%) have higher education. At the time they were polled, 56% of the respondents were married, 44% were not married, and 52% had children.

The poll revealed that the respondents carry out the following main Islamic rights: Iman and shahada77%; and almost the same number consider it their duty to perform daily namaz77.5%. Ten point five percent of the respondents have participated in hajj; whereas those who observe fasting significantly exceed this index93.5%. Zakiatthe mandatory tax according to Muslim lawis paid by 58% of the respondents. At this point, we should mention the relative lack of attention to this problem in present-day Russia. If this question were competently dealt with at the government level (whereby 2% of Muslims income is allotted to the needs of Muslim parishes) it would provide a rational solution to the social problems facing the vast Muslim Ummah in Russia.

An analysis of the world outlook of those who attend Russian mosques with respect to how significant Islam is in their lives may help to shed light on the Muslim standpoint in Russian society. Islam occupied a significant place in the lives of 93% of the respondents; 5.2% have difficulty defining its place in their lives, and only 1.8% said that Islam occupies an insignificant place. No mosque attendees maintained that Islam meant nothing in their lives.

The responses to the question about attitude toward the representatives of other religions may help us to understand the attitude of Russian Muslims toward their fellow countrymen as a whole (see Table 1).

Table 1

Attitude toward other religions

Number of respondents (%)

Positive, interested

40

Tolerant

34

Indifferent

12

Negative

4

Dont know anything about them

5

Dont know

5

Thus, the absolute majority of Russian Muslims (86%) expressed a rather positive attitude toward other religions, from which we can assume that they also have a well-wishing, good-neighborly attitude toward their representatives. This conclusion is explained by the importance Islam places on relations with neighbors. For example, in the Koran, Allah commands that benevolence should be shown to ones neighbor, saying: Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the Companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and what your right hands possess (4:36).

Tolerance of other religions is a very significant trait of Islam. The conscientious Muslim should not only show benevolence to those among his neighbors who are relatives or Muslims, he should precisely have the same attitude toward non-Muslims. This is explained by the magnanimity of Islam. It is so generous that it enfolds all people in its embrace, regardless of the differences in the religions they preach. It is told how once, when a sheep was slaughtered for Abdullah bin Amra, a prominent supporter of the Prophet, he asked his servant: And did you give something to your neighbor the Jew? The Jews and Christians have always received protection from the Muslims without fearing for their lives, honor, property, and freedom of confession, as well as enjoying patronage, good relations, and freedom of conscience. This is shown by the existence of their synagogues and churches which were built during the very first stages of the evolvement of Islam, according to what is said in the Koran: Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them, for Allah loves those who are just (60:8).

We will go on to analyze the interdependence between the attitude of Muslims toward other religions and the problems concerning them. Those who have a positive attitude toward other religions are most concerned about the problems facing Islam and Muslim organizations, crime, the mafia, and armed conflicts. Those who have a tolerant attitude toward other religions are concerned about the problems faced by Islam and Muslim organizations and lack of spirituality. Among those who have an indifferent attitude toward other confessions, the most popular responses were as follows: problems facing Islam and Muslim organizations and armed conflicts, as well as the mafia and corruption, lack of spirituality, and the state of the economy.

In turn, those who have a negative attitude toward other religions noted the following problems as those which concern them most: the mafia and corruption, crime, lack of spirituality, and mass unrest, with the problems facing Islam and Muslim organizations bringing up the rear. Attention is drawn by the fact that for this category of parishioners, the problems facing Islam and Muslim organizations are 2.5-fold less significant than problems relating to the mafia and corruption. Those who do not know anything about other confessions singled out impoverishment of the population, the problems facing Islam and Muslim organizations, and armed conflicts as their main concerns. The most significant problems for those who did not know how to define their attitude toward other confessions are armed conflicts, mass unrest, inequality, impoverishment of the population, and the problems facing Islam and Muslim organizations (see Table 2).

Table 2

 

Attitude toward other religions (%)

Which problems concern you most (you can give more than one answer)

Positive, interested

(40.5% of the total number of respondents)

Tolerant

(34%)

Indifferent

(12%)

Negative

(4%)

Dont know anything about them

(5%)

Dont know

(5%)

The state of the economy

38

39

40

14

7.7

44

Dictatorship

7.2

13

15

7.1

0

19

Lack of spirituality

44

63

40

36

15

38

Mass unrest

28

24

20

36

15

63

Armed conflicts

47

45

45

29

46

75

Dependence on the West

25

28

18

29

23

6.3

The mafia, corruption

47

43

40

71

15

44

Impoverishment of the population

38

39

30

21

62

56

Social inequality

28

39

33

14

7.7

38

Crime

54

54

43

57

15

63

The problems facing Islam and Muslim organizations

74

72

70

36

54

56

Dont know

1.4

2.6

2.5

0

0

0

The data presented in Table 2 confirm once more that Islam differs from other religions in the social orientation of its teaching. Surely never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves (Koran, 13:11).

The poll also determined the likely reaction of all the respondents to a significant deterioration in their standard of living. The overwhelming majority said they would look for a second job and additional earnings. The least attractive options (chosen by 0% to 2% of the respondents) were joining a party, defending interests through a trade union, and participating in strikes and hunger strikes, while 3% opted for taking up arms, 4% for moving to another region of the country, and 5% for leaving Russia.

Even keeping in mind that the respondents had the opportunity to give several responses, it is worth noting that 32.5% of the respondents intend to do something but have still not decided precisely what, and 22% marked the column dont know. That is, half of the survey participants are still undecided in the event of a possible deterioration in their standard of living, and many Muslims are still trying to figure out their viewpoint and the action they will take.

It seems pertinent to analyze the responses to a significant deterioration in standard of living from a number of different angles: from the standpoint of the place Islam occupies in the lives of the parishioners and from the viewpoint of their attitude toward other religions (Tables 3, 4).

Table 3 (calculated according to the vertical)

 

The place Islam occupies in your life (%)

Response in the event of a significant deterioration in your standard of living

(you may give more than one answer)

Significant

(93% of the number of respondents)

Insignificant

(1.8%)

Dont know

(5.2%)

Dont know anything about them (0)

I will join a party

0

0

0

0

I will defend my interests though a trade union

1.9

0

11

0

I will participate in demonstrations, strikes, and hunger strikes

2.3

0

17

0

I will take up arms

2.9

0

11

0

I will move to another region of the country

3.6

0

17

0

I will think about leaving Russia

4.9

0

11

0

I will look for additional earnings

44

33

56

0

I will not react at all

1

0

5.6

0

I will do something, but have still not decided what

32

50

44

0

I will not do anything

7.1

17

0

0

Dont know

23

17

11

0

The intention to take up arms was expressed by 2.9% of those in whose lives Islam occupies a significant place, and by 11% of those who did not know what place it occupies, which shows the immense role of Islam in instilling tolerance and an active civil standpoint in Russian Muslims. It is not by accident that Basic Provisions of the Social Program of Russian Muslims contains the following statement: Failure to fulfill your legal civil duties, or responding to appeals in the name of believers and religious communities to participate in any acts of civil disobedience and rebellion are inadmissible in Islam!1

Four point nine percent of those in whose lives Islam occupies a significant place and 11% who do not know what place it occupies may decide to leave Russia; while 3.6% of those in whose lives Islam occupies a significant place and 17% who do not know what place it occupies are ready to move to another region of Russia. Most of the parishioners polled opted for looking for additional earnings, whereby 44% of those for whom Islam occupies a significant place, 33% for whom it occupies an insignificant place, and 56% of those who do not know what place it occupies. The high percentage of those who selected the response, I will do something, but have still not decided what and dont know among all those for whom Islam occupies one place or another in their lives again highlights the need for intensified enlightenment work among believers, since socially passive people, as already noted, are attractive targets for groups inclined to engage in unpredictable behavior.

Table 4 (calculated according to the vertical)

 

Attitude toward other religions (%)

Responses in the event of a significant deterioration in your standard of living

(you may give more than one answer)

Positive, interested

(40.5% of the total number of respondents)

Tolerant

(34%)

Indifferent

(12%)

Negative

(4%)

Dont know anything about them

(5%)

Dont know

(5%)

I will join a party

0

0

0

0

0

0

I will defend my interests through a trade union

2.9

1.7

7.5

0

0

0

I will participate in demonstrations, strikes, and hunger strikes

2.9

0

5

0

0

0

I will take up arms

1.4

2.6

13

0

0

0

I will move to another region of the country

4.3

3.5

7.5

7.1

0

0

I will decide whether to leave Russia

1.4

8.7

5

7.1

0

13

I will look for additional earnings

41

42

45

29

54

56

I will not react at all

0

2.6

2.5

0

0

0

I will do something, but have still not decided what

33

35

33

7.1

23

13

I will not do anything

8

3.5

10

0

7.7

6.3

Dont know

23

21

15

43

0

25

The highest indices in all the attitudes toward other religions are among those who will look for additional earnings (between 29% and 56%), among those who have still not decided what they will do (more than 20%), and among those who do not know at all (15% and more). One point four percent of those who have a positive attitude toward other religions, 2.6% of those who expressed a tolerant attitude, and 13% of those with an indifferent attitude toward other religions are ready to take up arms.

We will take a look at the possible ways to defend the interests indicated by the respondents in whose lives Islam occupies one place or another and who expressed their attitude toward different religions, since this can serve as an additional characteristic of their political and social activity and civil standpoint (see Tables 5 and 6).

Table 5 (calculated according to the vertical)

 

The place Islam occupies in your life (%)

Ways to defend your interests (you may give more than one answer)

Significant

(93% of the number of respondents)

Insignificant

(1,8%)

Dont know

(5,2%)

Do not know anything about it

(0)

By participating in elections and referendums

11

29

4.5

 

By participating in meetings and demonstrations

1.6

0

9.1

 

By participating in strikes

0.8

0

0

 

By participating in hunger strikes

0.5

0

4.5

 

By participating in the activity of political parties

0.5

0

0

 

By participating in the activity of public organizations

2.9

0

18

 

By turning to the mass media

6.1

14

14

 

There are no effective methods in Russia

23

14

14

 

Independently, by acting through my personal connections

17

0

18

 

By turning to the court

6.4

0

14

 

By turning to the power structures

4.5

14

0

 

Dont know

19

29

4.5

 

Other ways

5.6

0

0

 

Those for whom Islam occupies an insignificant place and those who did not know opted in equal numbers (29%) for participating in elections and referendums. Among those in whose lives Islam occupies a significant place, the majority (23%) believe that there are no effective ways to defend ones interests in Russia, and 19% and 17% constituted those who did not know and those who prefer to act through their personal connections. It is worth noting that the absolute majority of respondents do not consider political methods to be effective in defending their interests (apart from participating in elections and referendums).

Table 6 (calculated according to the vertical)

 

Attitude toward other religions (%)

Ways to defend your interests (you may give more than one answer)

Positive, interested

(40.5% of the total number of respondents)

Tolerant

(34%)

Indifferent

(12%)

Negative

(4%)

Dont know anything about them (5%)

Dont know

(5%)

By participating in elections and referendums

20

2.3

7.1

33

0

0

By participating in meetings and demonstrations

3.5

0

0

8.3

0

0

By participating in strikes

0

0

0

0

0

0

By participating in hunger strikes

1.2

0

0

8.3

0

0

By participating in the activity of political parties

1.2

0

0

0

0

0

By participating in the activity of public organizations

4.7

3.8

2.4

8.3

0

0

By turning to the mass media

5.8

7.6

17

0

0

6.7

There are no effective methods in Russia

16

26

29

0

54

40

Independently, by acting through my personal connections

16

19

17

0

23

0

By turning to the court

7.6

6.1

4.8

0

15

0

By turning to the power structures

4.1

5.3

2.4

0

0

0

Dont know

15

23

21

25

7.7

40

Other ways

4.7

6.9

0

17

0

13

Essentially all the respondents did not see strikes, hunger strikes, participating in the activity of political parties or turning to the power structures as effective ways to defend their interests. Those who do not know anything about other religions (15% of this group) place the greatest trust in the courts. There is a high percentage in all the groups of respondents of those who do not believe there are any effective ways to defend ones interests in Russia, and of those who prefer to defend them independently through their personal connections. There is also a high percentage of those who do not know how to defend their interests. On the whole, we believe that the social face of Russian Muslims is only beginning to take shape and a great deal here depends on the standpoint of the state structures and their socially-oriented policy, as well as on the activity of Muslim and public organizations.

In order to obtain a complete picture of those who attend Russian mosques, it appears important to look at the people with whom the respondents feel a sense of community. The largest number of respondents noted that they feel a sense of community with Muslims (94%) and with their families (93%). Other popular responses were: with my peers (more than half of the respondents) and with people who hold the same views on life (more than 40%).

In this way, the religious life of todays Russian Muslims can be said to be undergoing a religious revival, and is an intrinsic component and one of the vital forces in transforming Russian society as a whole. Along with the obvious signs of an Islamic revival, that is, an increase in the number of registered parishes and mosques (their number has reached half of the pre-revolutionary level), a qualitative and quantitative expansion in religious education, and an increase in interest in Islam, deeper social and psychological processes at the individual level can be noted, whereby the current world outlook of educated people is shaped by the universal and moral aspects of religion. For believers, Islam is increasingly becoming a means of socialization, adaptation to life in Russian society, and a reference point in choosing values, norms, and codes of conduct.

Russian Muslims are characterized by tolerance of other confessions and of their representatives and moderation in their choice of ways to defend their interests. They place priority on social methods (primarily searching for other jobs), and not on political action. Russian Muslims also manifest moderation when evaluating the socioeconomic situation in our country. They are mainly concerned with the problems facing Islam and Muslim organizations, crime, armed conflicts, lack of spirituality, impoverishment of the population, the mafia, and corruption. Muslims trust in the Russian state structures and public organizations depends precisely on their ability to resolve these problems. We believe that Russian Muslims are worthy representatives of their society, and an intrinsic and traditional part of it.

3. Age as a Factor in the Different World Outlooks and Behavior of Russian Muslims

Within the framework of this question, we had to check into the myth that Muslims, particularly young ones, tend toward certain radical antisocial behavior. The results of the poll show that there is no such tendency. As we have already noted, almost 50% of the respondents are parishioners under the age of 35, and 54% account for age groups older than 35. Despite a certain degree of conditionality (due to the representation of the selection), these data nevertheless characterize the activity of young parishioners and show the efficiency of the enlightenment work carried out by the mosques. The fact that those under 19, that is, teenagers, constituted 13.5%, and parishioners under 24 (in aggregate) 29.5%, i.e. almost one third of the respondents, indicates that these young age groups, whose mindset was formed during the post-perestroika years, actively attend the mosque.

Responses to indirect questions confirm the priority of Islam in the world outlook and world perception of todays Russian Muslims. For example, for 57% of the respondents, Islamic norms are a factor which help to cope with lifes difficulties, while profession, business ties, or the working collective were only noted by 21%, 8%, and 2.5% of the respondents, respectively. However, the breakdown in responses (in terms of gender and age) to questions about following traditions and the effectiveness of Islamic norms graphically shows the dramatic drop among the 45-49-age group in the number of those who consider Islamic norms and Islamic traditions to be of significant benefit in coping with lifes difficulties, whereby there were high percentages among the youngest and oldest age groups and a certain drop in the number of parishioners between the ages of 30 and 44.

An analysis of the age-related indices with respect to performing the basic Islamic rites shows that the largest number of those who observe Iman and shahada are parishioners in the 25-29 and 40-44-age groups, and the lowest number is among those between the ages of 45 and 49 and those under 19. Namaz is most actively carried out between the ages of 40 and 44 and among those older than 60, and least actively among 45-49-year-olds. Zakiat is most actively paid by Muslims between the ages of 50 and 54 and 40 and 44, and least actively among parishioners between the ages of 45 and 49 and under 19. It is understandable that 19-year-olds and those who do not earn a living are unable to pay tax, which explains the low percentage of young people who pay zakiat. But the Muslim leaders must obviously pay careful attention to parishioners between the ages of 45 and 49.

Among those who fast, the indices are quite close and the difference among the respondents is small, which corresponds to the actual situation whereby Muslims try to fast during the Holy Month of Ramadan. It is particularly encouraging to see that 40-49-year-olds observe fasting. The lowest indices with respect to performing the main Islamic rites are again registered among 45-49-year-olds. The only exception is Muslim fasting, which is observed by all the respondents in this age group.

The data on the attitude of Ummah members toward other religions presented in the second paragraph are very productive for understanding the special features of this community. If we compare them to the age-related indices of Muslims attitude toward other religions, we see that most of those in 5-percent group who responded, I dont know anything about other religions, are people in the youngest age groups and those with incomplete secondary education.

When expressing their attitude toward other religions, the respondents also perceive it as their attitude toward the people who preach them. For example, the representatives of the under-19 age group defined their attitude as positive and tolerant39% and 27%; 20-24-year-olds33% and 37%; and 25-29-year-olds30% and 40%, respectively. So approximately 70% of all the young people who attend the mosque have a positive or tolerant attitude toward the representatives of other religions. Five percent of the respondents in the 20-24-age group and 6.7% in the 25-29-age group expressed a negative attitude. There were no young people under 19 polled who had a negative attitude toward the representatives of other religions. Fourteen percent of the respondents under 19, 13% between 20 and 24, and 20% between 25 and 29 expressed an indifferent attitude. The positive and tolerant attitude of the overwhelming majority of all the respondents and the even distribution of these indices among the total number of respondents show that traditional good-neighborly relations are preserved among the representatives of different confessions in this part of Russia. There is a relatively low percentage among the 45-49-age group with respect to a positive attitude toward representatives of other religions, although the total number of responses reflecting a loyal attitude generally does not differ from the norm.

The respondents assessment of their standard of living provides a particular characterization of the general population. The overwhelming majority, 77% of the respondents, is made up of those who do not restrict themselves in anything, or do not buy luxury items, and sometimes do not buy certain necessary items or products. Four percent of the respondents suffer from want and hunger, 8.5% find it difficult to make ends meet, and 11.5% do not know. In this way, 55% of the parishioners live on less than 1,500 rubles a month; and 45% stated that the per capita income of their family was higher than this amount (the subsistence minimum at the time the poll was conducted, the beginning of 2002, was taken as the basis).

During an analysis of the age-related response to this section of the questionnaire, it should be noted that in the three youngest groups singled out there was a rather wide range of opinions when choosing such a response as, I do not restrict myself in anything. It is obvious that the youngest age group is financially dependent on their parents (only 4.7% of this group do not restrict themselves in anything). Twenty-one percent of the 20-24-age group gave this response, which is explained by a certain amount of financial independence from their parents and the fact that most of them have still not created their own families. In the 25-29-age group, only 3.2% of the respondents do not restrict themselves in anything (due to responsibility to their own families). There was no one in the 40-44 and 45-49-age groups, which we conditionally place among the groups of parents (with respect to the youngest age groups in the poll), who do not restrict themselves in anything. Here again, we should keep in mind the subjectivity of the respondents when evaluating their standard of living.

We gain a fuller understanding of the parishioners economic position from their response to the question about what helps Russian Muslims under current conditions to deal with lifes difficulties. As already noted above, Islamic norms (57%) are in first place. According to Islam, a person answers to the Creator for his earthly life. He who has common sense and physical health is obliged to work and not depend financially on others. Even poverty, teaches the Holy Koran, must be suffered with dignity. Being grateful for ones kindness is another inalienable Islamic moral quality, which is also indicated by the words of Allahs messenger who prompts people to show gratitude: He who does not express thanks to people does not show gratitude to Allah (Al-Bukhari).

The age-related data again compel us to think about the problems of the mid-life crisis experienced by forty-year-olds. This age group is characterized by the lowest percentage of those who selected Islamic norms and following traditions as factors helping to deal with lifes difficulties. And combined with a complete absence of optimism and ability to adapt to the conditions of Russian business, as well as of hopes placed on accumulated savings, this (with a relatively high number of those who rely on diligence, their profession, the ability to change ones field of specialization and take risks) again compels us to refer to the crisis state of people who began building their careers during the first perestroika and post-perestroika years.

We get a slightly different view when comparing the data on the respondents evaluation of their standard of living and their responses to the questions in the economic section of the questionnaire. Almost 70% of the respondents believe that during the past 10 years their financial status has either improved or remained the same. Compared with the beginning of the 1990s, 17% of the respondents have a lower standard of living, and 15% of the poll participants did not know how to respond.

When evaluating the economic situation, the greatest pessimism is inherent in the youngest age group. For example, 41% of those under 19, 25% in the 20-24-age group, and 17% in the 25-29-age group believe that the situation is still difficult. The situation was evaluated as serious but with nascent signs of improvement by 34%, 41%, and 53%, respectively. Only 2% of the 20-24-age group believes that the countrys economy is undergoing an upswing; and there was no one among the other young age groups who shared this point of view. Four point five percent, 18%, and 20% of the first three age groups, respectively, believe that the socioeconomic situation in Russia is catastrophic. All in all, the youngest age group and those between 45 and 49 have the most pessimistic view, with 28% of the respondents assessing the situation as on the brink of disaster. As shown above, this viewpoint was shared by 5% and 6.5% of the most financially well-off 30-34 and 35-39-age groups.

The behavioral characteristics of parishioners of different ages are shown by their choice of response to a significant deterioration in their standard of living. The overwhelming majority in all the age groups chose the model, I will look for additional earnings as the basis of their behavior.

When the responses are broken down according to age groups, the most positive response looks as follows (see Table 7).

Table 7

Age groups

I will look for additional earnings (%)

Under 19

59

20-24

60

25-29

60

30-34

54

35-39

29

40-44

50

45-49

28

50-54

84

55-59

50

60+

11

This index is somewhat higher among young people compared with the average index of 43% for all the Muslims polled. The low index in the 45-49-age group again draws attention to itself: only 28% of the parishioners in this age group intend to look for additional earnings in the event of a significant deterioration in their standard of living.

Young people and those who, according to demographic characteristics, are at the age of parents for the youngest age groups form the basis of the 3% in the overall statistics of those who opted for taking up arms (see Table 8).

Table 8

Age groups

I will take up arms (%)

Under 19

6.8

20-24

5.8

25-29

0

30-34

0

35-39

0

40-44

12

45-49

8

50-54

0

55-59

0

60+

0

The response I will participate in strikes, meetings, and hunger strikes is also higher than the average among the young age groups: 0%, 3.8% and 6.7%, respectively (among all the polled Muslims, this index was 1.5% on average). There was a surprisingly high number (8.3%) in the 55-59-age group who consider it acceptable to participate in strikes, meetings, and hunger strikes.

The response I will not do anything was chosen by 4.5%, 1.9%, 3.3% and 7.1% of the first four age groups, respectively (for all the age groups as a whole, this index was equal to 7%). The intentionally duplicated response I will not react at all provoked a slightly different breakdown: 1% of all the age groups is largely made up of the responses of 40-44-year-olds (7.7%) and the youngest age group (2.3%). In our opinion, this showed the difference between their internal perception of intentions and real action.

Not one of the age groups among the parishioners of Muslim mosques supported the alternative of entering a party. There was a slightly different attitude toward trade unions. I will defend my interests through trade unions was selected by 5.8% of the respondents in the 20-24-age group, 1.7% in the 25-29-age group, and 3.6% in the 30-34-age group.

* * *

So, these preliminary results of the sociological poll allow us to maintain that Russian Muslims are an intrinsic part of our society. The noted adjustments in life views as people get older are natural and reflect the processes going on in society, families, and social groups. The fact that these members of Russian society are peace-loving, acknowledge simple life values as top priorities, and essentially manifest no radical sentiments shows their inner moral fiber.

In light of the current revival in spirituality, the affiliation to a particular nation or nationality is combined in Muslims with identifying themselves as part of a single Russian religious community. With this in mind, we can talk of a revival in the concept of the Muslim Ummah of Russia. It primarily has the same spiritual and geographical space, which coincides with Russias state borders. For today there is not a single region or republic where Muslims do not reside. Migration processes have brought Muslims to settle throughout the country from Kaliningrad in the West to Kamchatka in the East, from the polar cities in the North to Daghestan in the South. Russia today is not only an Orthodox, but also a reviving Muslim state, where more Muslims live than in many Muslim countries.

The religious life of present-day Russian Muslims is undergoing a religious revival, and is an intrinsic component and vital force of transforming Russian society as a whole. Along with the obvious signs of an Islamic revival, i.e. an increase in number of registered parishes and mosques (their number has reached half of the pre-revolutionary level), a quantitative and qualitative expansion of religious education, and an increase in interest in Islam, we can talk about deeper social and psychological processes going on at an individual level, whereby the contemporary world perception of educated people is shaped by the world outlook and moral aspects of religion. Islam is increasingly becoming a means of socialization, adaptation to life in Russian society, and reference point in choosing values, norms, and codes of conduct for believers.

Russian Muslims are characterized by tolerance and compliance toward the representatives of other confessions and moderation in their choice of ways to defend their personal interests, they prefer social methods (primarily looking for new jobs), and not political action. Russian Muslims also show moderation when evaluating the socioeconomic situation in our country. They are most concerned about the problems facing Islam and Muslim organizations, crime, armed conflicts, lack of spirituality, impoverishment of the population, the mafia, and corruption. Muslims trust in the Russian state structures and public organizations depends precisely on their ability to resolve these problems. We believe that Russian Muslims are worthy representatives of their society, and an intrinsic and traditional part of it.


1 See: Basic Provisions of the Social Program of Russian Muslims, Moscow, 2001, p. 31.

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