Monday, September 2, 2013

( 9 ) " Russia and Islam: Byzantium Lives ! "

By Sodium

Most people in the Western World are under the impression that France has the largest numbers of Muslims, outside the Islamic World. Such an impression is incorrect. The largest numbers of Muslims, who live outside the traditionally well known World of Islam, are in Russia, excluding India and China, since both India and China are totally in Asia while Russia is partly in Europe and partly in Asia. We are talking about Muslims in the Western World. The fact that Russia is a Eurasian country must be considered partly a Western power and partly an Asian power, as well as a Christian power. It has become the main home for Christian Orthodoxy, after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 A.D.

France has roughly five to six million Muslims, while Russia has at least 20 million adherents to Islam. The Muslims who live in Western Europe and North America are originally immigrants from some Islamic countries. The Muslims of Russia are indigenous of the lands that became Russian by either through Russian conquests or Russian geopolitical expansions. In fact, Russia has lived with its Muslim population for more than a thousand year. One question that may arise: how Islam had reached Russia, in the first place ?  The question and its answer are outside the boundaries of the topic at hand, and require separate treatment. Whatever the answer that might have been, it was not by the sword, as some claimants had liked to claim.

In the last topic, topic number ( 8 ), it has been made clear that Russia has inherited the legacy of the Byzantium Orthodoxy, after the fall of Constantinople, in 1453 A.D. to the Ottoman Empire. It has also made clear that certain Orthodox Russian Tsars had made alliances with Muslim Turkic, Tatars and Mongols, instead of accepting an Anti-Muslims alliance proposed by the Pope in Rome. This topic at hand reemphasizes this propensity of the Russian Tsars to establish alliances with the Muslim Turkic, Tatars and Mongols, rather than an alliance with the Pope in Rome, meaning that the struggle between the Latin Church in Rome and the Byzantium Orthodoxy was so deep and would have remained deep whether there was Islam or not.

In short, Tsarist Russia, which had adopted and sheltered the Byzantium Orthodoxy, was, at the same times, most accommodating to Islam and Muslims. The proof was the alliances it had made with the Turkic, Tatars and Mongols Muslims.

The following points are the core of this topic:

~  Tsarist Russia had remarkably managed in keeping its Russian Muslim population content and consequently loyal Russian citizens to the great mother land: Russia.
~  After adopting and sheltering the Byzantium Orthodox Church, after the fall of Constantinople, Tsarist Russia kept it tamed. Otherwise, the Byzantium Orthodoxy wanted to convert everyone who was not Christian to Christianity, including Muslims
~  When the Bolshevik Communism succeeded in ruling Russia, all religions in Russia were marginalized, including Islam. As years passed by, the Muslims of Russia had lost touch with their religion and forgot even how to pray, let alone remembering the five pillars of Islam.
~  After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a sort of Islamic revival has been going on in Russia and Muslim Russians have started learning about their own religion all over again.

The following quotations may provide additional insight about the content of the chapter of this topic:

Quotation One:
" Since it was Muslim Turks ( Ottomans ) and Arabs who brought down the Byzantine Empire, it would be reasonable to assume that Russians would be strongly hostile to Islam and Muslims. But it is hard to blame the fall of Constantinople on Islam. Can we really believe that if the Ottoman Turks had not been Muslim, they would have opted not to invade and conquer Greek Byzantium, a rich and weakened state, regardless of whatever religion Byzantium practiced ? "

Note from the writer of this review:
Please notice that the author of the book has called " Byzantium " in the quote above, " Greek Byzantium."  The reason behind such a nomenclature is the fact that the people who lived in the Byzantine Empire spoke Greek, not Latin language, while the affairs of the Byzantine Empire were run by the Latin language.. In addition, Greeks and Turks did not like each other. ( and still do not like each others and this dislike has been going on for centuries. Look what has happened in Cyprus, at present time: North of Cyprus is occupied by Turks, while Southern Cyprus is inhabited by Greeks. )  A powerful empire, like the Ottoman Empire at its peak forms then, certainly would not hesitate of conquering Constantinople and the rest of Byzantium, whose population spoke the Greek language and, most likely, felt like Greek, regardless whether the Ottomans were Muslims or not. The determining factor behind the Ottoman's conquest of  Constantinople and the rest of Byzantium was not religion, but ethnicity ( Greek-Turk animosity ), and geopolitical goals related to the global position and prestige of the powerful Ottoman Empire, at that time of the conquest.

Quotation Two:
" During the three hundred years of the Romanov Dynasty then, the Russian state persisted in claiming its ruling authority as " grounded in religion."  The Romanov state project came to be based on a " shared moral universe."  These policies largely succeeded. Just as secular rulers in Islam must uphold the principle of Islamic society and law to claim legitimacy, the non-Muslim Romanovs could in principle be accepted as rulers over Muslims, as long as they permitted Muslims to Maintain their Islamic way of life and upheld Islamic principles within Russian Muslim communities.  Muslim subjects were even encouraged to bring their grievances and disputes to the Tsar for adjudication, thereby legitimizing the Tsar and preserving the unity, well being, and satisfaction of the Muslim population."

Quotation Three:
The coexistence of Islam and Orthodox Christianity within the Russian Empire is a significant experience in the history of the Islamic people. The Muslims of the empire could extend their loyalty to the Russian state precisely because they were not being forced to assimilate, or to give up their personal and communal identity for a Russian Christian one."

Quotation  Four:
" Despite its many wars with neighboring Muslim states, the Russian empire nonetheless actively engaged in diplomacy with the Ottoman state, with Iran, and served at the same time as official protector of Orthodoxy in the Holy Land of Palestine under Ottoman control.  Moscow cared greatly about the opinion of foreign Muslims toward Russia; at the same time Moscow sought to enlist Russian Muslims to advance Russian Foreign policy goal in the Middle East, so that Moscow could speak as a Muslim power as well as Christian power. Thus, rather hindering the expansionist vision of the Russian state, Islam actually facilitated it."

Quotation Five:
" But the Russian engagement with Islam is older, deeper, more extensive, and more complex than Europe's. One key reason is that the Russian Empire encountered Muslims as a result of contiguous overland expansion east and south, unlike the European imperialists who encountered Muslims only through distant voyages of conquest overseas. Russian forms of coexistence with Islam persist and always will, simply because they inhabit common space. Russia remains the sole state in the West that embraces a significant Muslim community among its citizenry."

Quotation Six:
" Russia will never wish to lose its own unique historical character that is rooted in Orthodoxy. Russia has never been truly accepted as part of the West by the West. Nor can Russia's strategic orientation ever lie with the West; it will continue to seek partners from Eastern cultures to bolster it-emphasizing Russia's abiding Eurasian and Orthodox character. Russia's serious engagement in the Sino-Russian-dominated Shanghai Cooperation Organization further demonstrate this geopolitical orientation, which includes many Central Asian states and a strong expression of interest from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey. Geopolitics transcend religion-Islam, in this sense, is mere frosting on the broader geopolitical cake that is driven by suspicion or fear of Western power and intentions, deeply rooted in history."

Final Words:
Twenty million Muslims living in Russia is no small number. Just for the sake of objectivity, one may raise the following question:

Since some Islamic countries have small population, that does not exceed 5-6 million, and nevertheless, they are members of the Islamic Organizations, whatever their exact names are, why not admitting Russia, with more than 20 million Muslims, to these Islamic Organizations, as a full pledged member ?

Let us be honest and face the fact that Russia, through out its entire recorded history, has always been a powerful country, even at its lowest state of economic collapse. Therefore, one may conclude that permitting Russia to be a full pledged member in any global Islamic organization would provide such an organization with strength and more say in the global geopolitical fierce competitions. Just think objectively and critically of  these final words whose intent have been based upon historical facts about the great land the good people of Russian call: " Mother Russia."


The next topic will be topic ( 10 ) Muslims in the West: Loyal Citizans or Fifth Column ?.


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