By Paul Goble
Patriarch Kirill’s positive comments about “the pious Islamic population” of Russia in recent days reflect the increasing role of Islam in Kremlin thinking during the course of “special military operation” in Ukraine over the last three months, Andrey Melnikov says.
While the war between Russia and Ukraine has not yet taken on the form of the kind of clash of civilizations Samuel Huntington described, the editor of NG-Religii says, it is increasingly the case that Moscow is sensitive to the role of Muslims in the Russian Federation in it (ng.ru/ng_religii/2022-05-17/11_529_muslims.html).
Like Christians and Jews, the Muslim community inside the Russian Federation is divided on the war, with some supporting Putin’s invasion and others very much opposed and even going to Ukraine to fight against Russian forces. But Muslims are in a very different position than are Orthodox Christians, Melnikov suggests.
Because Ukrainians are Orthodox Christians as are the Russians, this conflict is one between two Orthodox peoples. As far as Islam is concerned, however, there are far more Muslims in Russia than in Ukraine, many of whom are now serving in Russian military units there, and Muslim countries have been more supportive of Moscow than has the Christian West.
Consequently, both the Kremlin from the first days of the way and now the leadership of the ROC MP have spoken out far more warmly about the Muslims of the Russian Federation. On the one hand, this may be simply a tactical maneuver; but on the other, it may presage a new balance between Orthodoxy and Islam in Russia.
At the very least, some Muslim leaders in the Russian Federation are likely to test the waters to see how far the pendulum has swung, hopeful that they can now translate their support for Putin’s war into a better situation for themselves in the future.