Rustam Minnikhanov: ‘Historically, Russia is the closest to the Islamic civilisation’
The Tatarstan president urged Islamic countries “to more actively take advantage of the potential of relations” with Russia
To assign Kazan a special status by declaring it “the city of the first printed Quran in the Muslim work” and announce 1803 as a memorable date when the holy book was printed. Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov launched such an initiative at a meeting of Russia — Islamic World Strategic Vision Group, which is taking place in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia). Reinforcement of relations between the Russian state and Islamic countries to provide security in the world and save traditional national values became the main theme of the meeting this time. Read more in Realnoe Vremya’s report.
On behalf of Russian president
Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov voiced an initiative of holding a session of Russia — Islamic World Strategic Vision Group as early as winter of 2017 during a meeting with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The strategic group’s meeting became the first with a new composition outside Russia.
Members of the group gathered last time in Bashkortostan in 2019, when an agreement between the Muslim Religious Directorate of the republic and the Muslim World League including 11 different international organisations was signed. This time, the theme Russia — Islamic World: Dialogue and Prospects of Cooperation was discussed. First of all, it is the discussion of new possibilities of cooperation, including in commercial and economic, scientific and humanitarian spheres.
Before the event, Rustam Minnikhanov and Prince Emir Khaled bin Faisal Al Saud visited the exhibition History of Islam in Russia. The theme was not chosen accidentally. Next year, our country will celebrate the 1,100th jubilee of the adoption of Islam by Volga Bulgaria.
Then, in his welcome speech, the Tatarstan president addressed the attendees of the plenary session and read the Russian president’s message for the participants in the meeting:
“Russia attaches much importance to the development of friendly links with Muslim countries, both bilateral links and those within the dialogue of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. It is important that our stances on many topical issues of regional and global agenda are close enough. We are both in favour of building a fair democratic order based on the supremacy of law and peaceful coexistence of states, free of forceful dictatorship and any forms of discrimination,” the Tatarstan leader cited Vladimir Putin.
King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud also talked about the importance of stable and friendly relations between Russia and Muslim countries in his address to the members of the group and urged the countries to demonstrate “solidarity in the fight against terrorism” and go by “the principle of mutual coexistence”:
“The relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia have developed, marked by the signing of agreements in different spheres. We aim to foster harmony between representatives of different religions and civilisation, strengthen human values.”
After that, Special Envoy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, head of the permanent secretariat of the Russia — Africa Partnership Forum Oleg Ozyorov took the floor. In his speech, he noted that Russia considers OIC members not only as friends but also as reliable economic partners who establish equal and mutually beneficial cooperation.
“Special thanks to dear Chairman of the group Rustam Minnikhanov for mentioning Karim Khakimov, the first Soviet ambassador in Saudi Arabia. Mr Minnikhanov put a lot of effort to have the book that is today introduced to panel members in Arabic.”
Advisor to the guardian of two holy sites, Governor of Mecca Emir Khaled Faisal also stressed the cooperation between Russia and countries of the Islamic world in responding to challenges of modernity:
“Our kingdom plays a special role in the distribution of principles of mutual understanding and coexistence among representatives of different religions. We intend to keep putting the necessary effort for the sake of good goals of opposing conflicts and differences for the sake of patience and understanding in society.”
New status for Kazan
Then, in his speech, Rustam Minnikhanov noted that there are over 1,8 billion Muslims around the world today, while the geopolitical and geoeconomic meaning of Muslim states steadily grows. The chairman of the strategic group also touched on business relations between the countries by putting an example of the successful cooperation between the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Islamic Development Bank. Russia — Islamic World: KazanSummit International Economic Summit that annually takes place in Kazan becomes a point of active cooperation between the sides.
“Today we should more actively take advantage of the potential of our relations. We should jointly raise the efficacy of the fight against terrorism and cooperation in such areas as the protection of traditional moral values, care about socially unprotected members of society and national minorities, fight against natural and manmade catastrophes, the environment,” the Tatarstan president noted.
Rustam Minnikhanov separately talked about the experience of building a multiethnic and multireligious world in Tatarstan. According to him, “the Tatarstan model of harmonic coexistence and cooperation of ethnicities and religions is transmitted today as an example of a sensible civilised approach to national security and Russia’s further development strategy.”
Also, he reminded them that 2022 in Tatarstan would be a year of big events dedicated to the adoption of Islam by Volga Bulgaria 1,100 years ago. This event became the start of the spread of the Muslim religion in the Volga area. Minnikhanov named the group’s session in Saudi Arabia, which is considered the cradle of Islam worldwide, symbolic.
“The origins of our religion, Prophet Mohammed’s birthplace and burial site are here. Historically, Russia is the closest to the Islamic civilisation in many values. The relations between our state and the Near East date back to the pre-Mongol era.”
He mentioned another historical fact: the first mass issue of the Quran was printed in a Muslim publishing house in Kazan in 1803. Due to this, he offered to establish this year as a memorable date of the issue of the first print Quran prepared by Muslims and assigning Kazan a new status declaring it as “the city of the first print Quran in the Muslim world.” The attendees supported the initiative.
“You are an example of how one should live”
The republican president’s itinerary in Saudi Arabia is quite busy. He arrived in Jeddah, where the meeting of the Russia — Islamic World Strategic Vision Group took place, one day before. The head of the republic met with Advisor to the King, Governor of Mecca Province, Prince Emir Khaled bin Faisal Al Saud, the business community of the Kingdom and, of course, the Tatar diaspora.
During his conversation with the Arab prince, the head of the republic noted that “Saudi Arabia is an important partner of Russia. Our relations develop almost in all the areas. The leaders of our countries have repeatedly stressed the mutual interest in expanding the cooperation in commercial, economic and investment spheres during talks.” He also emphasised that Tatarstan also makes progress in these key areas: today the republic is interested in cooperation in power and agriculture. Also, our region is a pilot site for Islamic banking projects in the country, so it is ready to cooperate in this area.
The president also thanked the Arab Kingdom for the attention to the delegations and pilgrims from Tatarstan. Before the coronavirus pandemic, 1,800 citizens of the republic visited Saudi Arabia in 2019, while the visa regime for pilgrims and tourists can be simplified. The opening of a consulate general of the Islamic country in Kazan will facilitate this.
The president met with Secretary General of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf Nayef Falah Al-Hajraf. They talked about the reinforcement of commercial and economic links with the republic. Rustam Minnikhanov invited Gulf countries to participate in Tatarstan’s investment projects highlighting that the republic’s industry is very interested “in supplying KAMAZ lorries, helicopters, cargo and passenger ships, petrochemicals, gas and oil equipment, fridges, food, agricultural produce, halal products, medical and pharmaceutical goods to these countries.”
To see the industrial and economic potential of the republic, feel Tatarstan hospitality first-hand, he invited the management of the council to Tatarstan. In reply, the secretary general thanked Russia for its position in OPEC+ and noted that the council he chaired was always ready for cooperation.
“We are very glad to see that despite the variety of religions you have such peaceful coexistence. You are an example of how one should live.”
By the evening, Rustam Minnikhanov had a round-table talk with representatives of businesses of Saudi Arabia in the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Later, he met with the Tatars living and working on the Arabian Peninsula.
Russia — Islamic World Strategic Vision Group was created in 2006 after our country joined the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation as observer. Russian politician and public activist Yevgeny Primakov as well as First President of Tatarstan and State Adviser to the republic Mintimer Shaimiyev organised it.
The group includes 33 famous state and public activists from 27 Muslim states, including former prime ministers, ministers of foreign affairs, a number of the biggest theologians of the Islamic East from Indonesia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait and others.