Russia , OIC ambassadors chart new path on democratization of international life, others

By John Okeke

On 9 June, a traditional information meeting with accredited ambassadors of the member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was held in Moscow. The event was dedicated to summarizing the work of the Group of Strategic Vision ‘Russia – Islamic World’ over the past two years and forthcoming plans. We would like to remind that the first such meeting took place in 2019 on the platform of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At that time, an updated concept of the Group of Strategic Vision’s activities was presented.

This time, the meeting was moderated by Deputy Chairman of the Group of Strategic Vision, Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs Farit Mukhametshin. The event was attended by Rustam Minnikhanov, President of the Republic of Tatarstan, Chairman of the Group of Strategic Vision ‘Russia – Islamic World’; Konstantin Shuvalov, Special Representative of the Minister for Interaction with Organizations of Muslim States, Ambassador at Large of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Chairman of the Group of Strategic Vision ‘Russia – Islamic World’ and other representatives of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ambassadors of OIC countries, members of the Group of Strategic Vision ‘Russia – Islamic World’, representatives of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation, the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tatarstan and heads of a number of subjects of the Russian Federation, as well as public and religious figures.

‘We consider the OIC countries as like-minded in the further democratization of international life, building it on the solid foundation of the UN Charter. We are united by respect for the inalienable right of peoples of the world to determine their own destiny and reject the imposition of any universal models of development. It is therefore logical that Russia and Islamic countries interact closely and fruitfully in various formats. I am convinced that this is also largely to our own historical experience. It is widely known that representatives of various civilizations, religions and cultures have been living in peace and harmony for centuries in Russia. Such unity in diversity makes it possible to maximize our creative potential for the benefit of the common Fatherland’, the greeting message of Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov says. The message of the Russian Foreign Minister was read by Konstantin Shuvalov, Special Representative of the Minister for Interaction with Organizations of Muslim States, Ambassador at Large of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Chairman of the Group.

According to Lavrov, consolidation and further development of ties with Muslim countries is widely supported by Russian society, including the regions where the part of citizens who practice Islam predominates. The OIC member states make their own contribution.

The Minister is convinced that the Group of Strategic Vision ‘Russia – Islamic World’ plays a special role in this close relationship. It is on the Group’s platform where various initiatives are put forward and worked on, aimed at expanding the multifaceted partnership.

In his turn, Rustam Minnikhanov, President of Tatarstan and Chairman of the Group, shared with the audience the results of the organization over the past two years. In his opinion, in recent years Russian and countries of the Islamic world continue to come closer, confirming the opportunity of successful partnership in the formation of a multipolar world.

Moscow hosted an information meeting of the Group of Strategic Vision ‘Russia – Islamic World’ with OIC Ambassadors

‘Thus, last year, despite the pandemic, we conducted more than 10 major events, which were predominately held in the online format. The key issues for discussion were the global agenda, development of inter-civilizational and inter-religious dialogue, protection of traditional, spiritual and family values, deepening of international humanitarian cooperation, development of youth relations and exchanges, as well as improvement of information flows and communication’, Minnikhanov said.

In addition to it, the Chairman of the Group reminded that the year 2020 was marked by anniversaries, in particular, the 15th anniversary of the partnership between Russia and OIC and the 75th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War. Among the most significant events there was the X International Forum ‘Islam in Multicultural World’, the International Conference ‘The Muslim World Facing the Pandemic: Unity in the Conditions of Social Distancing’, the scientific Forum ‘Russia – Africa: Politics, Economic, History and Culture’ and others. Minnikhanov reminded that the Group took an active part in the first celebration of the International Day of Islamic Art.

‘A retreat of the Group of Strategic Vision in Saudi Arabia is planned for October this year. The traditional International Economic Summit ‘Russia – Islamic World; KazanSummit 2021’, which is a leading economic platform in our country, will be held on 28-30 July. Also, in 2022 the 1100th anniversary of the adoption of Islam by Volga Bulgaria will be widely celebrated. This event is of great importance for all Muslims’, Rustam Minnikhanov reminded. The year 2022 will also mark the 45th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

The Chairman of the Group of Strategic Vision ‘Russia – Islamic World’ concluded his speech by presenting Vitaly Naumkin, Academic Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, well-known Orientalist and member of the Group, with the E.M. Primakov International Prize for his book ‘The Failed Partnership. Soviet Diplomacy in Saudi Arabia between the World Wars’. As it was previously reported, the book is a kind of encyclopedia devoted to the relations between Moscow and Eastern countries.

Moscow hosted an information meeting of the Group of Strategic Vision ‘Russia – Islamic World’ with OIC Ambassadors

Deputy Chairman Farit Mukhametshin continued to brief the OIC ambassadors on the Group’s activities. He stressed that the organization’s work in the past year was guided by the slogan ‘Further Development of Cooperation between Russia and OIC Member States’. Despite the restrictions due to the pandemic, the Group of Strategic Vision ‘Russia – Islamic World’ continued its active work aimed at promoting state-level efforts to find new, non-standard approaches to solving problems of cooperation between Russia and Islamic countries.

Moscow hosted an information meeting of the Group of Strategic Vision ‘Russia – Islamic World’ with OIC Ambassadors

The fifteen-year period of close contacts between Russia and Islamic states has been rich in important events for our country and the OIC member states. Russia and Islamic countries have come closer together on the basis of balanced approaches to a number of problems of the modern world order, confirming by the example of their interaction the possibility of conflict-free cooperation between civilizations in the conditions of the formation of the multipolar world. A number of issues on the global agenda – preservation of multiconfessionalism and multiculturalism in society, protection of traditional values, deepening of humanitarian cooperation, development of youth ties and exchanges, improvement of information flows and communication – have been a priority in the activities of the Group of Strategic Vision’.

Among the landmark events organized by the Group, Mukhametshin named the videoconference ‘At the Origin of Modern Diplomatic Relations with the Islamic World: Life and Destiny of K.A. Khakimov and N.T. Torekulov’ (prominent Soviet diplomats who worked in Hejaz, Yemen and Saudi Arabia in the 1920-1930s), which gained great interest among the public. The event was held with the support of the Permanent Mission of Russia to OIC and the Russian and Kazakh Embassies in Saudi Arabia.

‘It has already become a good tradition that at the Kazan International Muslim Film Festival the Group gives its award to the winner of the special contest dedicated to the dialogue of cultures’, the speaker reminded.

Mukhametshin drew attention of the audience to some changes in the organization of events. For instance, beginning from 2020 the traditional Aitmatov readings will be held under the name ‘International Forum of Writers and Intellectuals Named after Chingiz Aitmatov’.

The implementation of the St. Petersburg Museum-Institute of Islamic Culture scientific and cultural project, in which the Group is actively involved, deserves special mention to be made. This is about creating Russia’s first museum of a new type. It will exhibit the richest Islamic collections related to the history of Russian Islam. It is intended to become one of the most important centers for cultural life of Muslim peoples of Russia and to represent spiritual achievements and history of Russian Islam abroad.

In his speech, Farit Mukhametshin focused on expanding the partnership between the Group and the Bolgarian Islamic Academy in order to promote theological education and revival of Russia’s own Islamic theological school, as well as intensifying the work with the young (this is about the International Summer School “Bolgarian Dialogue of Cultures-2020’ and seminar ‘Youth Volunteerism: Experience of Russia and Countries of the Islamic World’).

A special place in the Group’s activities was taken by the International Forum of Muslim Journalists and Bloggers ‘Russia – Islamic World: Crossroads of Information Cooperation’ with the involvement of new partners – the Union of OIC News Agencies, the International Federation of Journalists, the Russian Union of Journalists and other Russian and foreign mass media. In addition to it, in 2020 the Expert Advisory Council comprising well-known Russian and foreign experts in oriental studies began its work.

As far as the top-priority tasks for the upcoming years are concerned, according to the Chairman of the Group, these include discussing topical issues of the Islamic world at different forums. Among them there is the retreat of the Group of Strategic Vision in October in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Jeddah) – ‘Russia – Islamic World: Dialogue and Prospects for Cooperation’. Other important priorities for the year include deepening contacts with Central Asian states with a view to countering extremist tendencies in Islam and consolidating cooperation in the sphere of education, culture and spiritual relations.

The International Conference entitled ‘The Spiritual Silk Road: Civilizational Heritage in the Space of Dialogue and Good-Neighbourliness’ is planned for autumn in Tashkent in cooperation with the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Russia. Besides, there are plans to hold a number of events to coincide with the preparation and holding of the World Conference on Inter-religious and Inter-Ethnic Dialogue in May 2022 in Russia.

‘We will continue to further expand our international ties. New events will be held, including with broad access to direct contacts with national organizations of the Islamic world’, Farit Mukhametshin concluded.

Ilyas Umakhanov, First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Science, Education and Culture, spoke in more detail about the preparations for the World Conference on Inter-religious and Inter-Ethnic Dialogue, scheduled for May 16-18 2022 in St Petersburg. According to him, the event is timed to coincide with the end of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures, conducted by UNESCO by decision of the UN, and the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. At the moment, the main work parameters have been defined, and foreign partners that have some experience in holding specialized events are being consulted online. The Committee is chaired by Sergei Kirienko.

‘About 3 000 to 4 000 participants are planned. We hope for maximum geographical representation and a high political level of delegations. It is worth noting that the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has personally supported the idea of holding the conference. He also expressed his intention to take part in the event, as well as to send invitation on his behalf to heads of states’, Umakhanov told.

In the speaker’s opinion, the forum is unique because the participants will include heads of states, government, parliamentarians and religious figures. The invitations will also be sent to representatives of expert and civil communities, as well as leaders of youth organizations. All in all, apart from the plenary session, 15 discussion platforms on various topics will be held, and a number of peacekeeping and educational events will be organized. It is expected that a separate section will be dedicated to the celebration of the 1100th anniversary of the adoption of Islam by Volga Bulgaria.

‘We hope that this forum will become the biggest event of the decade in the sphere of international humanitarian policy. Consolidation of traditional moral values, preservation of religious shrines, prevention of extremism and terrorism under the cover of religious slogans, harmonization of interethnic and interreligious relations, cultural diversity, rejection of any forms of intolerance, hatred and violence on ethnic or religious grounds, role of science, education, enlightenment raising to involve young people in intercultural and interreligious dialogue initiatives are just some of the issues that we have to discuss’, Ilyas Umakhanov concluded.

Talia Minullina, Chief Executive of Tatarstan Investment Development Agency, spoke about another major upcoming event in Kazan this year. In her speech she acquainted the ambassadors of the OIC member states with the program of the upcoming International Economic Summit ‘Russia – Islamic World: KazanSummit2021’. The Forum will be held on July 28-30 in Kazan.

Moscow hosted an information meeting of the Group of Strategic Vision ‘Russia – Islamic World’ with OIC Ambassadors

‘9 Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary have already confirmed in writing their presence at the summit. I would like to remind that it has been held for 12 years, and today it brings together representatives of 72 countries. After all, this is a unique chance to speak about your country and find like-minded people, colleagues and partners’, Minullina noted.

This year there will be about 50 different events. The main sectors into which the whole summit will be divided include finance, ecology and nature, time, foodstuff and information. We would like to remind that this year’s theme is conscious, environmentally friendly consumption. The main issues to be discussed are development of Islamic banking in the territory of Russia, issues of standardization of halal products, Muslim fashion, as well as presentation of start-ups and forum of young diplomats. For the first time this year there will be a summit of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Talia Minullina concluded.

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