President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Dear friends,
Today we have gathered to celebrate one of the most significant events in our country’s history.
But you also know that a crime was committed yesterday in Volgograd. We know the marks such people leave, criminals, terrorists who have already killed many of our citizens, including Muslim spiritual leaders. This crime has also claimed victims. And I would ask you to hold a minute of silence to honour their memory.
(Minute of silence.)
Dear friends, dear guests, I see representatives from many different countries in this room, Muslim representatives from various countries. Thank you so much for being with us on this celebratory day.
225 years ago Russian Empress Catherine the Great issued a decree establishing the Muslim Spiritual Assembly here in Ufa. In fact, Islam was officially recognised as one of Russia’s traditional religions by the Tsarist authorities.
Russia, a country where a majority of the population was Orthodox Christians, had acted as an example of religious tolerance and sagacity for both Europe and the world at that time. This decision was in line with our entire national history, which has never known religious wars and conflicts. It followed naturally from our experience building a multi-ethnic and multifaith state, a unique civilisation connecting East and West, Asia and Europe.
People of different nationalities worked together to create a huge, great state, one in which every nation and ethnic group retained its own identity.
Deep mutual understanding and the interpenetration of cultures, as well as the respectful dialogue between representatives of traditional religions have shaped our spiritual unity. This unity is further founded on shared moral values such as justice, truth, hard work, respect for our loved ones, patriotism and love for our shared fatherland, which is the same for all.
Islam is an outstanding element of Russia’s cultural makeup, an integral, organic part of our history. We know and remember the names of many Muslims who have contributed to the glory of our common fatherland: state and public figures, scientists, entrepreneurs, cultural and artistic figures, and valiant warriors.
During the difficult years of the Great Patriotic War, here in Ufa, at the congress of Muslim spiritual leaders, Mufti Gabdurakhman Rasulev spoke of the sacred duty to defend the motherland. He said, “Muslims remember firmly the Prophet’s words: love for the motherland is part of your faith.” And Muslims were true to these sacred commandments and to their love for their homeland. From the first days of war they joined the ranks of those defending our common homeland, our land, starting from the Brest Fortress, and together with our other peoples and ethnic groups followed the wartime roads all the way to Berlin.
This is all part of our shared history. We must preserve it as a holy treasure and look after it in memory of our fathers and grandfathers, who fought together on the battlefields, built and laboured in peace together, and never divided their comrades by ethnic group or religion. They valued mutual respect, supported each other in troubles and in joy, and bequeathed to us this example of a great and victorious friendship that we will never allow anyone to destroy or defile.
The Muslim communities’ and Muslim religious leaders’ work has great importance. It is our task to educate young people in a spirit of mutual respect based on feelings of being fellow citizens, patriotism and a shared national identity.
Friends, Russia and the whole Muslim world just celebrated Eid al-Adha (Kurban Bayram), Islam’s greatest celebration. On this occasion, true Muslims show their respect and care for their families, friends, colleagues and neighbours. For Muslims, neighbours are the same as brothers. All the peoples of our multi-ethnic country value these sincere feelings. Where people and religions can live as good neighbours and cooperate, peace will always triumph. Harmony and stability in our society are the guarantee of our homeland’s successful and prosperous future.
I wish you all success and good health. Congratulations.