A ceremonial granting of diplomas to the fourteen first graduates of Russia’s only Muslim institution of higher education, the Russian Islamic University, took place in Kazan on June 28. Tatarstan Mufti Usman Khazrat Iskhakov said at the ceremony that four of the fourteen graduates were to stay at the University as lecturers and the others would go to different regions of the republic.
In an interview with PRAVDA.Ru, correspondent Usman Khazrat Iskhakov said: “We are grateful to Russia’s president for understanding the problems of Muslim education and thank the presidential administration for organization of the University’s work.”
There are at least 20 million Muslims in Russia, which is why the problem of training highly qualified religious specialists is not a new one. A system of professional Muslim education institutions was created over the past decades in Tatarstan to satisfy the increasing interest to Islam and to train more professional imams and mugallimami for parishes and Muslim educational institutions. The Russian Islamic University was founded in 1998 on the initiative of Tatarstan’s official authorities and the Religious Muslim department of Tatarstan. Originally, the university was located in an old mosque, but, two years ago, in 2000, with the support of the Tatarstan government and other charitable organizations, the university was moved to a newly repaired four-storey building. Young men between the ages of 17 to 35 years who leave Muslim secondary schools can be enrolled in the university. Prospective imams study disciplines traditional for institutions of this kind (the Arabic language, the Koran, and sciences pertaining to the Koran), but the students also study Shariat sciences. Preliminary courses function at the university. Itis planned that one-hundred men will be enrolled this year (22 students were enrolled in 1998). Because of the first group of the University graduates, the Tatarstan government decided to write off the university’s half-year debts for public utility bills. In addition, authorities of the republic gave the university a credit to pay wages to the university’s staff. The official attitude towards Islam, which used to be rather cautious, has changed for the best. Chechnya, Islamic extremism, and vakhabism (that is mistakenly associated with Islam) must have considerably helped shape such an attitude. Pro-rector for the university’s curriculum Abdurashid Khazrat Zakirov says: “The University is like an aquarium.” As a matter of fact, the University has been under control of special services for a rather long period, and different checks-up were habitual there. However, lecturers do not resent this. Instead, they they say, “We do not lecture vakhabism here.” The University maintains contacts with similar education institutions throughout the CIS and abroad. For example, students of the Russian Islamic University studied the Arabic language at the universities of Jordan and Egypt.
At the same time, the university does not stick to Islam only. Lecturers of the university keep in touch with the Russian Orthodox Church. We believe that the initiative of the Tatarstan government will be supported by regional and federal authorities as well. Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/07/01/43514.html