Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
I am sincerely grateful for your invitation, and for the opportunity to speak at a forum of such a large and influential international organisation.
I would like to thank in particular the Chairman of the summit, Malaysian Prime Minister Mr Mahathir Mohamad. And I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him on the high assessment which he was just given for his contribution to the study and research of Islam.
We know that the vast majority of member countries of the Organisation supported our initiative to develop relations with the OIC. And we see in this not just a gesture, but a far-sighted and strategic decision.
I am certain that Russia’s participation will not only add to the rich spectrum of the Organisation, it will also bring new possibilities to its work, and add the weight and voice of the large Russian Muslim community. A community which no longer separates itself from the international community of Muslims, and which is prepared for productive involvement in its spiritual, cultural and political life.
Over many centuries, Russia, as a Eurasian country, has been connected with the Islamic world by traditional, natural ties. Our country is historically home to millions of Muslims, and they consider Russia their home. The names of Muslim peoples are present in the geography of territories that are part of the Russian Federation. And in this hall today, in our delegation, there are leaders of members of the Russian Federation in which the Muslim population is the majority.
I should also note that the last decade was the time for a rebirth of spiritual life of Muslims in Russia. After many decades of bans on religious education, we now have over 100 madrasahs and other institutions of religious learning. If there were 870 mosques in Russia in 1991, today there are already over 7,000.
And we thank the OIC countries and other foreign partners – we thank everyone who with good intentions and an open heart has helped their fellow believers in Russia, who has taken part in building and restoring mosques, in organising the Hajj, in implementing educational, cultural and other humanitarian programmes in our country.
The very history of Russia refutes all the ideas that are still prevalent about the insurmountable conflict between civilisations.
As you know, throughout the entire 20th century, Russia has supported many of your countries and their movements for national independence. It provided these countries with adequate, practical assistance in establishing an industrial base and social infrastructure.
Today, Russia also actively develops contacts with most nations represented in this hall, essentially continuing long-standing, mutually beneficial traditions of cooperation and profound respect for one another.
We welcome the fact that the OIC organises its activity on the universal principles of non-intervention in internal affairs and respect for territorial integrity of sovereign states. It is against the use of force and for the settlement of conflicts by peaceful means. I would like to note that Russian foreign policy is also ruled by these principles.
Russia, like the majority of Islamic nations represented here, is in favour of consolidating the system of international law, and in favour of the central coordinating role of the UN in resolving international problems. And we are certain that through joint efforts we will be able to oppose the development of unfavourable events in the world effectively – events that lead to the appearance of new dangerous lines of division.
Russia, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and many other multilateral institutions, is prepared to assist these constructive efforts and consistently try to consolidate the principles of trust, cooperation and mutual understanding in international relations.
Among the many threats present today, perhaps the most dangerous remains the inflammation of inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts. I would note that attempts to drag the international community into this essentially artificial conflict exist both in the West and in the East.
Some exploit religious slogans to carry out armed aggression against their brothers and allies, and fight against lawful authority, provoke separatism and are involved in terrorism.
Others use this situation as a tool of political pressure to achieve their own goals, which have nothing in common with the interests of Islam, with protecting human rights, or with international law in general.
We have encountered examples of this kind in Russia, in the Chechen Republic.
I thank the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the League of Arab Nations for sending observers to the presidential elections in Chechnya. I want to assure everyone present in this hall that we will continue to increase our efforts on political stabilisation in the republic, involving all political forces and in the interests of all residents of Chechnya.
As for one of the most serious threats of the modern world, terrorism, Russia’s position is consistent and clear: terrorism must not be identified with any religion, cultural tradition or way of life. I must say that attempts by terrorists to provoke Islamophobia in our country have been completely unsuccessful.
I would like to state to you all: for citizens of our country, Russian Muslims are an integral, full and complete part of the multi-ethnic people of Russia. And we see the strength of our country in this inter-religious harmony. We see its worth, wealth and benefit.
Russia, as a unique Eurasian power, has always played a special role in building relations between the East and the West.
And I believe that our cooperation in the framework of the OIC may also today become an extremely important element of a just and safe world. It is capable of providing a basis for solving many international and religious problems without conflict.
The combination of our financial, technological and personnel resources is capable of becoming a real factor in international politics, a starting point for a breakthrough in many areas of the world economy.
I am certain that this fully corresponds to the interests of our people, and to the humanitarian values which are advocated by all world religions, including Islam.
I think it is particularly relevant to remember this today, in the days when all Muslims, the entire umma, are waiting for the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan.
I want to wish you this: may it be a time of peace, may it be filled with deeds of piety, concern for close ones and compassion for those in need.
Thank you for your attention.