Why are Russians Converting to Islam?

Category: Europe, Life & Society Topics: Converts, Islam Views: 13140

Mosque in Kazan city - Considered as Russian Islam capital

The conversion of historically Orthodox Christian ethnic Russians to Islam is one of the most politically sensitive issues in the Russian Federation, with journalists and commentators frequently offering wildly different numbers and explanations for a trend many find a matter of deep concern.

Now, Andrey Ignatyev, a specialist on the sociology of religion at the Russian State Humanitarian University, seeks to answer the question "why do ethnic Russians convert to Islam?" without the exaggerations and apocalyptic language in which such religious shifts are usually cast.

In a heavily footnoted article posted on the Portal-Credo.ru site, Ignatyev argues that most earlier discussions of this issue have failed because they have offered a single explanation of what is an enormously complicated social phenomenon. In fact, people have extraordinarily varied reasons for converting. For his part, Ignatyev offers four.

First, the Moscow sociologist says, the largest number of converts are those who convert because of marriage, a group which includes both those who accept Islam before they marry and those who become Muslims once they enter into a marriage with one of the faithful. "As a rule," these are women, and the groom's parents make conversion a precondition of marriage.

Although such women elicit "particular hatred from Islamophobes like the members of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration," Ignatyev says, most of them know "very little" about their new faith and seldom show up in any mosque after their formal conversation, although a few of them do over time become active Muslims.

Second, he continues, there are Russians are attracted by the mysticism of Sufism, a pattern found around the world where such "god-seeking" often leads people to "convert" to various forms of Hinduism or Buddhism. But generally, Ignatyev says, such people "show no interest in communion with ethnic Muslims or strive to be part of a Muslim milieu.

Indeed, there is some question as to just how much these people deserve to be called Muslims. He gives as an example a Russian who having joined a Sufi order "gave a promise to accept Islam," even though that was "not required," and who said that "in the Moscow section of the order, 'there are Muslims but no Eastern peoples.'"

Third, Ignatyev says, there are those who "consciousness accept Islam as a religion in its concretely historical, ethnographic and cultural manifestation." They are "more serious than the neophytes of the first and second groups," and some of them study languages of Muslim nationalities and even travel abroad for instruction in Islam.

Most of these people associate themselves with one of the historical divisions of Islam such as the Hanafi rite of Sunni Islam, the Salafites, or the Twelver Shiia and are devoutly religious, publicly thanking Allah that he has brought them to the true faith. And many of them choose to live according to the shariat or adat.

And fourth, Ignatyev says, is "the most surprising group" of converts of all, a group that he calls "white Muslims" on the basis of an analogy with Louis Farrakhan's "Black Muslims" in the United States. "Representatives of this group," he continues, "combine Islam either with Russian nationalism, neo-paganism and racism or with left-radical doctrines."

Many of the relatively small number of people in this group were part of NORM, the National Organization of Russian Muslims, which viewed Islam as "a path to the rebirth of the Russian nation" or as "a means to the world-wide liberation of the oppressed" but which had little interest in historically Muslim groups.

In fact, oftentimes such "White Muslims," Ignatyev continues, have been openly hostile to Muslims from abroad, with some of them taking the side of ethnic Russians over Muslim immigrants in the case of conflicts like the one that broke out two years ago in the Karelian city of Kondopoga, despite sharp criticism from traditional Muslim leaders of their position.

Ignatyev does not offer any numbers for these groups - they probably amount in total to fewer than 50,000 - but he does sharply criticize those like the writer Elena Chudinova and the Orthodox activist Roman Silantyev who have written alarmist tracts about "Russian Muslims" and the threat they supposedly represent to Russia's future.

According to the sociologist of religion, there is no reason for that: "If there are Orthodox Arabs or Japanese, then why cannot Russian Muslims exist as well?" More than that, he says, this trend is likely to grow in a world of "global transformations in which what was "impossible in the past" is now "an everyday phenomenon."

"The processes which are taking place in the contemporary world and which are connected with the rapid development of many countries in Asia and the increase of migration flows are leading to a notable heightening of the eastern factor in the life of Russia," Ignatyev says, something one need not fear if one understands its nature.

Source: Georgian Daily

  Category: Europe, Life & Society
  Topics: Converts, Islam
Views: 13140

Related Suggestions

The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Older Comments:
The planet Earth is actually becoming Muslim. I read a book titled "They are either Extremely Smart or Extremely Ignorant" and I agreed that Islam has already won. See pictures of learned Westerners who converted to Islam in that book. You can Google it or get it from here: http://extremelysmart.wordpress.com/download-my-book/

50k Russians converting to Islam? Out of a country of 150 million? Thats hardly a big number or anything to really be writing home about. I dont know why we Muslims get so into writing about 50k converting to the religion. Its really nothing. A real movement would be 1 million or more and rapidly growing. This is not real news.

very simple. Their high spirit life-styles composed of booze, gambling and exposure of panties and private parts in the name of freedom and self-expression is NOT making them happy.

Hence, they are coming home to "MAMA" (aka Islam).

I think that there is a complex relationship between Russians & Islam. At the first ethno-genesis of the state of Rus, pagan Scandanavian traders traded with the higher culture of Istanbul. Then we had the famous event which decided the modern fate of Russia i.e. whether to convert to Islam or Christianity, which did they love more i.e. wine or women! Later on the Rus was ruled by the Turko-Mogol Golden Horde Khanate descended from the line of Genghis Khan. Then we had the infamous Tsar Ivan the Terrible who slaughtered Tatars on a vast genocidal scale & led to the conquering of rivals such as the the Khanates near the Urals, Astrakhan (once rivalling Ottomans) & Sibir. From that period we have the multicoloured turban domes of the Kremlin. The Tatar Muslims, especially the nobility were forcibily assimilated over centuries & became prominent. Then we had the Cossacks on the Central Asian March. Finally we had the centuries of imperial Russian advances southwards towards & ending in Afghanistan. The retreat is sounding. Recall the famous saying about Russian Slavs i.e. scratch any Russian & just below you will find a Tatar!

T.V. FROM U.S.A. said:
These ethnic Russians aren't White (Slavic) Russians but Turkic and other former Muslim ethnicities whose lands were conquered by the empire the Russian empire. It's not much of a surprise that they would convert o Islam