Islam, Conflicts, Peace Mediation - Conference report by Mikhail Lebedev, the Executive Secretary of the Russian Pugwash Committee at the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences (2008)
Islam, Conflicts, Peace Mediation
Kazan, Tartarstan, Russia 27-29 January, 2008
Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
Federation for Peace and Conciliation
Russian Political Science Association
Report by Mikhail Lebedev, Russian Pugwash Committee
On January 28-29, 2008 in the capital of the republic of Tatarstan in the city Kazan took place an international conference “Islam, conflicts, peace-building”, organized by International Pugwash, Russian association of political science together with Federation for Peace and Conciliation and Russian Pugwash movement of scientists. There were the representatives from twelve countries, including Russia, Egypt, Iran, Oman, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and other countries.
As it was noted on the opening of the conference on January 28 by the Pugwash EC member and President of Russian association of political science A. Nikitin, the conference was planned as an international dialogue, dealing with a study of the role of Islamic factor in regulation of conflicts, and it was aimed at providing more realistic understanding of the role of Islamic factor in policy.
The conference was opened by the rector of the Academy of state and municipal administration under the jurisdiction of the President of the republic of Tatarstan, Andrey Ershov and by state adviser of the President of the republic of Tatarstan, Rafael Khakimov. In his speech R. Khakimov emphasized special experience of the republic of Tatarstan in its search for the model of peaceful co-existence of civilizations and religions. During its evolution Tatarstan developed unique ethnic policy - named subsequently with a light touch of Harvard scientists “the model of Tatarstan” - based on the balance of interests of different aspects, mutual understanding, cooperation between the leaders of religions. According to R. Khakimov, the most important component of this model is co-existence and tolerance - for example, the neighborhood of mosque and orthodox cathedral in the Kazan' Kremlin.
The experience Of Tatarstan was named positive by the Secretary of the international Pugwash movement of scientists Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, who called for former republics of the USSR to use this experience during conflict’s regulation. After naming all religions peaceful in its essence, P. Cotta-Ramusino, at the same time, marked a problem matter, which can be conditionally named “the complexities of self-identification”: belonging to one religion becomes a part of a national self-identification, which in turn hampers the process of determining nature of a conflict.
The problems of correlation between religion and national factors was developed in the speech of Najmuddin Shaykh (Pakistan). According to him, religions determine the behavior of nations. N. Shaykh gave his estimation of the thesis that was raised in the dialogue? That contemporary conflict is a rebirth, or “re-incasrnation” of an old national liberation movement, marked now in new terms. Religious leaders were brought to the forefront when the attempt of public authorities to force out invaders fell through. The danger of religious leader’s stirring up is in the contradiction between their actions and the spirit of Islam. “It is a misuse of religion”, summed up N. Shaykh.
An active part in the discussion took the representatives from three Central-Asian republics - Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan. The general conclusion was formulated in one thesis about the process of islamization of Central-Asian countries. In Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are already constructed respectively more than two and four thousand mosques. The number of believers grows. There exists a system called daavat (a call to Islam). Islam becomes political factor. However, the country is not prepared to this evolution. For state is necessary to formulate clear policy in the religious aspect, to determine a format of interaction between Islam and politics, and namely integrate Islam in policy in accordance with national interests. A specific compromise between state and religion is achieved. Thus, in Tajikistan with the agreement of authorities there was registered the Islamic party of renascence. At the same time, state is not prepared to inject Islam in the education system. The authorities of Tajikistan forbade Islamic clothing in schools. There are held debates about wearing khidzhaba. An important factor of stabilization of relations between state and religion in Central-Asian countries is social and economic progress, the absence of this progress will lead to dissatisfaction among the population, especially in poor rural areas, where a majority of believers live, and these will strengthen the positions of Islamic opposition. Poor religious culture of local believers remains a serious problem.
One of the factors of such religious situation in Central Asia, according to local experts, is the attempts of Iran to popularize Moslem faith. The situation around Iran was commented by the professor of Teheran university, Sayde Lotfian. In particular, she indicated that the Iranian leaders are not that ?, as it was mentioned; the solutions in Iran are frequently provided on the basis of rational calculations and national interests of the country. Specifically, in such a way the questions of Iran rights protection in the aqueous spaces are solved (fighting sea terrorism), the integration of economies in the region through the Council of collaboration of countries in the bay and other cooperative structures is fulfilled. As a whole, relations of Iran with other countries in a region indicate the domination of collaboration. During the visit to Qatar the President of Iran M. Akhmadinejad marked twelve factors, which facilitate this collaboration. Among them, in particular, simplification in the visa regime, creation of the northern transport corridor by the countries of a bay and countries of Caspian region, etc. Thus, religious factor is not predominant in relations between Iran and its neighbors. Iran develops a pragmatic policy, aimed at cessation of its isolation.
About the role of religious factor in Azerbaijan the neighbor of Iran spoke Arif Yunusov. Yunusov marked out three political orientations that affirmed in Azerbaijan: pro-Islamic (pro-Iranian), pro-Russian, pro-Western (pro-Turkish, pro-European, pro-Israeli). At the beginning of 21 century in Azerbaijan a disappointment concerning western values is observed. After 2003, when the USA actually supported the falsification of presidential elections in Azerbaijan, anti-Western sentiments started growing. Islamic factor begins to play ever more significant role. At the same time wahhabism, which unites people here, who strive for national unity and clean Islam, brought to the forefront in Azerbaijan. Today the calls for association in Azerbaijan under the flags of Islam, find approval in population. At the same time, strengthening of pro-Islamic orientation inside the country didn’t entail an improvement of relations with Iran. The opinion polls show that the population of Azerbaijan is against the military actions of the USA in Iran, but, at the same time, the general attitude of Azerbaijani toward Iran remains poor. In the country the pro-Israeli sentiments, concerned with the support by Israel of Azerbaijan in the USA in contrast the efforts of Armenian lobby, are strong. The attitude of Azerbaijan towards international structures is determined through the prism of Karabach (“whoever helps to return Karabach to Azerbaijan, we enter this organization”). Obviously, this explains the appearance of NATO bases in Azerbaijan, and also “radar policy”, established against Iran and Russia.
In course of a discussion inter-religious dialogue developed. The representative of Russian Orthodox Church Alexander Makarov marked general values of Islam and orthodoxy - concept of God, sin, moral values. General issue for two religions was named the problem of pressure from the side of western liberal tradition. Beginning to Christian-Moslem dialogue was established in 1997. The last meeting took place in Teheran in 2006. At the same time, separate actions of Moslems are perceived by orthodox just as aggression. Specifically, in such a way the decision to construct a mosque in the Russian Orthodox Holy City of Sergiev Posad was perceived.