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Putin Meets Leaders Of Muslim Organisations

Beginning of the Meeting with Leaders of Muslim Organisations

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good day dear friends!

My meetings with leaders of religious communities and traditional denominations are regular occurrences; you know this well because we are constantly meeting in this format. This is what I would like to say at the beginning of our meeting today. I would also like to stress once again that Russian Muslims have always made a huge contribution to the development of our country, and done a great deal to establish Russia as a world power. Today the Muslim community is playing a very positive role in the development of the Russian Federation. The very instance that our nation is developing as a multi-religious state enhances the particular cultural cooperation that occurs between different nations, peoples and religions. And this is the true might of our country's development.

I would like to thank you for your important contribution to the moral education of our citizens, for your actions in the fight against all forms of extreme currents of thought, and for what you do in the fight against extremism. This certainly strengthens the unity of Russian society.

In this regard, I must refer to education. I know that you have recently devoted a lot of attention to this area of your work, and you could not help but notice that, in turn, the state is also trying to provide all possible assistance to you. I am first and foremost referring to the fact that religious institutions for higher education have the right to accredit their educational programmes according to state standards. In turn, this gives them the opportunity to issue state diplomas. I consider that this will increase, and should increase, the quality of education given as well as the relevance and authority of religious institutions of higher education.

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In addition, thanks to the state and your direct involvement, we just recently established a Fund to support Islamic culture, science and education. We have talked a great deal about this and you put forward such initiatives more than once. I am pleased to see that we have finally taken the first step in this direction. This is, of course, not very grandiose support, but it is a first step. We have drawn on different channels to put 60 million in this Fund, first and foremost to support educational programmes and programmes that support academic research and science. And I very much expect that our joint efforts in the educational sphere will yield expected results.

Your endeavours to help Muslims visit holy places - the Hajj - plays a special role in your work. You know that we have always supported you at the local, regional and federal levels. I would like to once again reaffirm our intention to continue to work together and provide you with the necessary support in this direction.

Finally, on 2 December 2007 there will be a national political event, namely elections to the Russian parliament, the State Duma. I expect that, as before, Russian Muslims will demonstrate their civic maturity and exercise their voting rights, that they will come to the polls and vote.

HEAD OF THE RUSSIAN COUNCIL OF MUFTIS RAVIL GAINUTDIN: Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, on behalf of our delegation we would like to thank you for the invitation to today's meeting. Such meetings are necessary for us, as religious leaders, and for our Muslims, so that our Russian Muslims can see the attention and care with which the President addresses their situation. And I would like to thank you for the concern that the state demonstrates in this regard.

You just mentioned the government's support for the Fund to support the culture, science and education of Islam. Thanks to this support, today our Muslim organisations and our Islamic schools are actually beginning to feel the tangible results of this support. And this will certainly help us train members of the clergy and help instill feelings of patriotism in them. It can also help the process of educating worthy members of the Islamic clergy in the Motherland, who can then resist the spread of alien ideologies and fight against extremism and radicalism.

Just now we are preparing our pilgrims to perform the Hajj. This year we received an additional quota of 6,000 pilgrims and we are going to send 26,000 pilgrims to perform the Hajj. As a member of the Hajj Council of the Government of the Russian Federation I would like to offer my sincere thanks for your organisational support, and support to our pilgrims who travel to perform their religious duty, far away from our country.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I would like to say that we are not only referring to administrative and financial support but political support in the fullest sense of the word, because during all our contacts with our colleagues from Saudi Arabia, with the leadership of Saudi Arabia, and other States where there are Muslim holy places, we have always raised the issue of the need to expand these quotas. And as we see, as a result of these very good intergovernmental relations, these problems are being solved.

RAVIL GAINUTDIN: Yes, and it is perhaps thanks to your historic visit, your visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar. We see how the Islamic world treats us today and this is undoubtedly thanks to your policies and your prudent endeavours to develop good, neighbourly relations with the Islamic world.

Dear President, I would like to say that, yes, just like all Russians, we are preparing for the elections to the State Duma. And Russian Muslims have always been patriots: they have always been politically active and participated in elections. We can assure you that our imams and our spiritual leaders on location call on our Muslims to participate actively in the elections and to perform their civic duty. I am sure that Russian Muslims will participate actively.

We would like to avoid seeing displays of xenophobic nationalistic sentiments among our politicians during the pre-election campaign. Praise be to Allah, that our major, most prominent parties do not espouse these ideas or make such appeals. And we would like the other parties to follow the example of our main ones. We want to maintain inter-ethnic, inter-religious peace in the country. Such sentiments are alien to us and should not exist because our peoples have lived in peace and harmony in Russia for centuries. We would not want such policies to artificially push our citizens towards inter-ethnic, inter-religious discord. For our part, we will do everything possible to ensure that the elections are a success, that Muslims perform their civic duty and participate actively in the elections. I would like to thank you once again, dear Mr President.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Thank you, I fully agree with everything that you said.

CHAIRMAN OF THE CLRTICAL DIRECTORATE OF THE MUSLIMS OF RUSSIA TALGAT TADZHUDDIN: Vladimir Vladimirovich, we would like to heartily thank you once again for this opportunity to meet, and for the great work that you do to ensure that peace and tranquility reign in the country.

We remember the past and the times we have lived through, and it is telling that we are already celebrating National Unity Day for the second time.

And now, thank God, we don't have any troubles in our soul nor in our country. And your great work plays an important role in that respect. Therefore, we would like to warmly thank you on behalf of Russian Muslims, our parishioners.

We see your sincere love for the Motherland -- patriotism can not be taught only through words but through good examples. And the freedom of choice that we are granted --not only by the Constitution but by God as well - gives us a natural right to choose. We choose peace and tranquility between the nationalities that live in our country, we choose a future in which our children and grandchildren live in peace and tranquility, and we choose prosperity for our country. And for that reason we thank you warmly for the great deal of attention that you have paid to these problems; this is the basis for all the changes in our country. And you have done this despite the problems that faced our country and problems in its spiritual and moral regeneration.

We hope that you will continue to expend great efforts and stay involved in our country's political life, because this is what many of our compatriots desire. The future will determine to what extent. From the bottom of our hearts we thank you for the enormous contribution you are making towards strengthening the power of our country. And we rejoice that our relations with the Muslim world have been improved in the international arena.

CHAIRMAN OF THE COORDINATING CENTRE OF THE MUSLIMS OF THE NORTH CAUCASUS ISMAIL BERDIEV: Vladimir Vladimirovich, on behalf of the Muslims of the North Caucasus I would also like to thank you. I have even said before that you simply cannot leave. But now we see that you intend to remain in politics and that pleases us. You must believe that you pleased everyone in the Caucasus when in Munich [at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy] you put America in its place and said that they do not need to act as if they were God. This was a pleasure for us, believe me. And I would like to express this gratitude on behalf of all Muslims.

What is now happening in the Chechen Republic - and you know this well - is that the situation has calmed down and there are some places where no trace of war remains - everything has been rebuilt and is brand new. No one believed that this could be done in such a short time but this young guy [Ramzan Kadyrov], as we call him (he is young and I have the right to say it - I'm a friend of his father, I know him since he was a kid), did it. And when people ask about how and what was done, they can't understand that this person was born into a religious family. In the first instance he is afraid of the Almighty, of God, and only in the second instance is he subject to the rule of law. When this prevails everywhere, then everything will be as it should be. Thank you.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: We need to ensure that our moral values and laws fully coincide, and at that point we will have reached a situation in which no one can say that a law is amoral. And when this situation really does occur, we will be able to say that we created all the conditions for the effective, rapid development of our state and society.

And in conclusion to this part of our meeting I would like to emphasize once again that we have not simply coexisted for centuries within a multireligious state, but rather precisely this coexistence gave rise to an absolutely new form of cultural cooperation between different peoples and religions. In turn, this constitutes Russia's inner strength as a great and important world power. And this is very important.

And another thing. I know how selflessly Muslim leaders are working, how fearlessly they fight for the interests of Muslims and all the peoples of the Russian Federation, and sometimes don't spare their own lives. And many Muslim leaders have paid for their work with their own lives. We must not forget this.


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