Greeting of the President of the Republic of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiev on the second meeting of International Group of strategic vision “Russia – Islamic World”

29 August 2006

Greeting of the President of the Republic of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiev on the second meeting of International Group of strategic vision “Russia – Islamic World” that took place in Kazan, on August 29-31 2006.


Dear participants of the International Forum of Group of strategic vision “Russia – Islamic World”!


Let me once again greet you on in Tatarstan as the most important guests of our main state holiday – the Republic Day. In 1990, we adopted the Declaration of State Sovereignty where the right of the individual, equality of peoples and languages were proclaimed as the core values. Due to this, Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Jews, Catholics, Lutherans, and members of other religions have found a common language. You can see on the example of the republic that peaceful coexistence of different religions which provides stable development of the society is possible. This requires a balanced policy based on a balance of interests and rejection of extremes. To weaken the motivation of radical parties and organizations first of all public opinion which does not accept these ways should be created.


The agreement between the Russian Federation and Tatarstan which was signed in 1994, allowed by agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation to participate in international affairs. During the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of Kazan the head of the Commonwealth of Independent States and distinguished guests from a number of Islamic countries visited our capital. Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference Mr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu has attended the ceremony of opening the Kul Sharif mosque and we are sincerely grateful for that.


Tatarstan is one of the leading republics with the advanced economies, the modern system of education and advanced research centers. We produce heavy trucks KAMAZ which are consistently winning races Paris Dakar, helicopters which are in demand throughout the East, and Latin America. The aviation industry, which was producing world famous strategic bomber TU 160, has adjusted a release of a new generation of civil aircrafts, as well as engines, devices electronics.


The republic is not only producing oil, but also is engaged in its processing. A number of petrochemical companies for the production of gasoline, rubber, tires, polyethylene and other polymers are the largest in the country. Our companies also produce oil equipment, compressors for gas pipelines and so on.


The pride of the republic are higher education institutions led by the famous Kazan University, where one of the greatest mathematicians of all time Lobachevsky used to work as a rector. An organic chemistry as a world scientific field was born in Kazan; the effect of paramagnetic resonance that underlies the design of medical scanners was discovered here. Medical school is well-developed in the republic, as well as other branches of science. All of this allows us to look at the future with optimism. The great Abu Hanifah said: “Use your knowledge in practice, because knowledge without practice is a lifeless body”. We try to follow his precepts.


Islamic world has a great energy and financial capacity, the ability to open universities, to make scientific discoveries. Hundreds of thousands of talented Muslims are working in Western research centers. There are Nobel Prize winners among them. I am convinced that the prospects for Islamic world are not only connected with hydrocarbons but first of all with the acquisition of new knowledge. At one time Islam was defining the development of world science. We should try to restore the prestige of Islamic spirituality as a source of knowledge on the basis of well-known words of the Prophet: “Seek knowledge even as far as China. Who wants to bliss in this world, let him be engaged in trade, and who wants to bliss in the other world, let him look for abstinence and piety. Who wants happiness of both worlds – let him seek it in the learning and knowledge.” West is a fertile source from which it is necessary to get knowledge, developing our own advanced technology at the same time.


The humanity was a single Ummah of Ibrahim (Abraham). Then it was divided. The world has been splitted into Christians, Jews and Muslims; there was a gap, which can become an abyss. This split went through souls of people, filling them with anxiety and fear. Only new values can unite the world. They cannot be a purely liberal and they cannot be traditionally Islamic as well. It is said in the Quran: “So compete in righteousness. To God is your return, all of you; then He will inform you of what you had disputed.” Good deeds unite people. Our common mission is to promote mutual understanding, which will help to strengthen the common bond of the different peoples.


Interfaith harmony arises in respect of the characteristics of different religions and tolerant attitude to the traditions. Any attempt of unification only complicates the situation. The grace of the Lord embraces all his creations, no matter what religion they follow in their life. It is said in the Quran: “Our Lord, You have encompassed everything in mercy and knowledge”.


Humanity has passed a long and painful path, claiming justice in the world, and now it is a single community in the face of international organizations. But unity cannot be built on imposing values by the strong side. The situation with Iraq has shown that democracy first of all should be the result of internal development of the country. Liberal ideas are great heritage of humanity, but they cannot be exported like cars. Strong countries need to be attentive to the interests of other states. It is in that their greatness, not in size of military spending. Peace always better than war. Nobody won from Israel’s clashes with Lebanon. A deep distrust was left in the souls.


These lessons make us think about the situation around Iran. It is the State from which are trying to create the image of the country which is threatening the planet. In 2001, former Iranian President Khatami visited Kazan. We talked with him. He suggested in the United Nations to begin a dialogue of civilizations. He took the initiative and forums were held and are being held in different countries. This is a real contribution to the improvement of Iran’s international relations, which cannot be forgotten.


The unipolar world, with no checks and balances (using the terminology of American school of political scientists) creates tensions and local wars. The Soviet Union is long gone but the arms race continues. If this money which is hundreds of billions of dollars went to good causes: education, health, poverty alleviation, job creation, then the world would be more equitable and democracy would be perceived more adequately. Making all the states as a single sample is not the essence of harmony and stability in the world. Every country and every nation has its own history, sometimes thousands of years and even more. Few countries were formed from migrants as the United States. Not taking into account the traditions of the people means not taking into account the diversity of cultures. In its turn Islamic world must move towards the West, and not fence itself off by the “Berlin Wall.” It is necessary to avoid “language of hatred”, the terms which promote hatred. This also applies to politicians, and journalists. The Prophet Muhammad said: “Verily Allah will send at the beginning of every century such a person for this Ummah who will rejuvenate and restore their religion”. He meant that the interpretation of the Quran should be appropriate to the time and specific conditions. Islam is a developing world. During the opening of the 10th session of the OIC in 2003, former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr. Mahathir Muhammad said that the backwardness of the Islamic world from the West is the result of superficial interpretation of the Quran and irregular accents … “We are interested in the letter rather than the spirit of the teachings of Allah”. Deep thought. A literal reading of the Quran cannot give the full depth of the verses.


Man intervenes in the course of history, and in this sense he creates it. Truth is not a frozen absolute; it depends on us, on what we bring into this world. It is said in the Quran: “God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves.” We must start with the more adequate for our time reading of the Quran. Our contribution is able to change the image of Islam and human civilization, if we will consider not only the letter but also the spirit of the Holy Book.


Muslims of our country have a unique experience in the development of Islamic theology and its reform – what is called in Arabic “Al-Islah”. Because of this Russian Muslims have become opened to other cultures, competitive and tolerant. They have learned to maintain tradition within the Orthodox state. The Russian Federation as an observer of the Organization of the Islamic Conference can and should contribute to the removal of sectarian tensions in the world.


Tatarstan by the will of fate was the northern outpost of the Islamic world, and remains so. At the same time it is located in the European part of Eurasia. It seeks and is able to make its own contribution to the development of Islam as well as in the process of establishing closer dialogue between West and Islamic world.


Thank you.