A group led by Saint Petersburg Mufti Jafar Ponchayev reached the decision. Talgat Tadzhuddin, head of the Central Muslim Board of Russia, made the initial proposal. The new organisation will not however be legally registered.
“In recognition of the absolute necessity to unify the Ummah, the working group is of the opinion that forming a single organisation is currently impossible and unacceptable,” the religious leaders said in a press release issued yesterday. The Supreme Council will instead be co-chaired by representatives from existing national Islamic organisations; they are Mufti Tadzhuddin, Mufti Council Chief Ravil Gainutdin, and North Caucasus Muslim Coordinating Centre Chief Ismail Berdiyev. The chair will rotated among the members. In the future, more muftis could join.
Analysts and the authorities have welcomed the initiative to unify in a single coordinating agency all Islamic groups in Russia. For their point of view, the decision provides an opportunity to control and contain extremist tendencies that have fuelled separatist movements, especially in the Caucasus.
In recent years, various Arab countries have allowed the construction of Orthodox churches on their territory. The Kremlin and Moscow Patriarchate have also been quite active in building bridges with the Islamic world.
On several occasions, President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin have met Muslim leaders and expressed their government’s intention of promoting a Russian way for Islam, a religion that claims 20 million members or 16 per cent of the population of the Russian Federation.