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Cablegate: Muslim Entrpreneurs Well Integrated Into Regional Economoy

VZCZCXRO7573
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK
DE RUEHYG #0082/01 3501057
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161057Z DEC 09
FM AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1396
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 1040
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 0619
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 0629
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 1434

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 YEKATERINBURG 000082

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR S/P - GREG BEHRMAN, R - SEHREEN NOOR-ALI
FOR EUR/RUS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: RS EAID ECON SOCI XF XI ZR ZP
SUBJECT: MUSLIM ENTRPRENEURS WELL INTEGRATED INTO REGIONAL ECONOMOY

REF: STATE 112468

YEKATERINB 00000082 001.2 OF 002


Sensitive but Unclassified. Not for internet distribution.

1. (SBU) Summary: On December 7, Consul General hosted a
lunch for Muslim entrepreneurs and an NGO rep. Invitees
discussed problems and trends within the local Muslim community
and shared their thoughts on the up-coming Presidential Summit
on Muslim Entrepreneurship in Washington (Reftel). In general,
our interlocutors felt well integrated into the Russian economy
and did not suffer from discrimination in business. Ethnic
identity (for example, Bashkir or Tatar) was more important than
religious identity. Preservation of cultural and linguistic
heritage was more problematic than promotion of business
opportunities within the Muslim community. End Summary.

Muslim interlocutors exchange views

2. (SBU) Our group of six, which included Post's four nominees
to the summit, represented a broad spectrum of entrepreneurial
activity. Nominee Ildar Gubayev is a large-scale entrepreneur.
Founder of the regional financial institution UralFinPromBank,
Gubayev is a property developer and has opened a chain of
entertainment centers and fitness clubs based on American
models. A self-described "Russified Muslim," Gubayev did not
associate his business success to his ethnicity or faith. In his
view, the relatively tolerant atmosphere in the Urals region
offers the same business opportunities to anyone smart enough
and willing to be successful.

3. (SBU) Nominees Radik Musin and Rafael Shikhov represent
medium-sized business. The former chairs the Board of Directors
of a regional bank, while the latter, a city council deputy,
owns chain of domestic appliances stores in the region. As
successful entrepreneurs, they said that their business success
was unrelated to ethnic or religious origin. Though active in
the local Muslim community, they had no faith-based business
ties and did not specifically market or promote their businesses
within the Muslim community.

4. (SBU) In contrast, our start-up entrepreneur, Rozalia
Akhmatova, began her business by designing and sewing
contemporary Muslim women's clothes. Ms. Akhmatova's business
is the first business in Sverdlovsk oblast serving a specific
market within the Muslim community. She has applied for a
federal grant for small entrepreneurs and hopes to receive up to
RR 300,000 ($10,000) to rent premises, buy sewing machines, and
advertise her products. In the meantime she and her future
employees work in their homes, filling individual orders for
modern Muslim apparel.

5. (SBU) Nominee Valeriya Tyumentseva, business consultant and
law professor from Bashkortostan, brought a slightly different
perspective to the group. She saw a greater connection between
religious values, social norms and business practices in her
region, where Muslims form a majority of the population. She
felt that Muslim entrepreneurs were more successful working
within their own communities and that business clans were
respected and granted informal privileges in Bashkortostan.

6. (SBU) Nurzida Benzgier, who heads an NGO that supports
ethnic and religious minorities in Sverdlovsk oblast, is very
connected to the labor migrant community, mostly Central Asians
working in the construction industry. She said she saw very
little specific attention paid to these groups by Muslim
businesses. These communities, which are by nature transient,
do not generate much entrepreneurial activity.

Muslim entrepreneurs well-integrated into the regional economy

7. (SBU) In general, our guests felt they were well-integrated
into the region's economic life and did not suffer from
discrimination in their business dealings. After decades of
assimilation during the Soviet period, there is little deviation
from basic business and market principals, and with the
exception of our start-up entrepreneur, no differentiation in
marketing practices to Muslim and non-Muslim consumers. Even in
the labor market, economic principals drive preferences:
Migrant laborers from Central Asia are preferred in the
construction market in part because of their cultural tendency
to abstain from alcohol.

8. (SBU) The exception to this consensus was expressed by Ms.
Akhmatova, who complained that she had been unsuccessful in
registering a Muslim kindergarten, which she attributed as much
to the restrictive Russian bureaucracy, rather than overt
discrimination. She did, however, note that some women in her

YEKATERINB 00000082 002.2 OF 002


community have suffered from discrimination in the workplace for
wearing the hijab.

Support for cultural traditions a part of corporate
responsibility

9. (SBU) Though our businessmen did not consider corporate
social responsibility an integral part of their business plans,
all were involved in social/civic activity. All of our guests
expressed the need to support institutions that preserve ethnic
linguistic and cultural traditions, especially in the absence of
support from local governments in non-Muslim majority regions
such as Sverdlovsk oblast. Gulbayev, for example, said that he
didn't feel he was a "real Muslim" anymore. Even though his life
and his business made him a secular citizen, he still had
respect for Muslim culture and values. For this reason, he has
contributed significant sums to mosque construction projects
which he hopes will support efforts to preserve religious
ceremonies and cultural values. More broadly, however, our
guests agreed that they shared responsibility to support civic
projects without regard to any religious or cultural component.

Aspirations for the summit

10. (SBU) Our guests expressed the hope that the summit would
provide the opportunity to:

* Interact with lenders from Islamic countries who could
offer cheaper loans to Urals businessmen suffering under the
current Russian credit crunch

* Discuss whether Islamic banking practices (such as
offering interest-free credits) could be adapted to Russia

* Examine social/civic practices of Muslim businessmen in
Islamic states in order to strengthen the core of Muslim society
in Russia

* Establish links between business representatives from
other non-Muslim majority countries

* Discuss strategies for empowering Muslim youth to
undertake entrepreneurial activity
SANDUSKY

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