STARTMENT ON The TASKEND CONFERENCE
We have been invited to a conference in TASKEND organized by the union of Moslem societies in The USSR. The Conference was restricted on statement read by the different delegations, then the organizing bureau read out there statement representing its view of the resolutions of the conference. Some delegates, including my self, listened to the statement and read out an alter- native draft which gained the support of those present.
The draft of our statement read: –
- Thanking our hosts for extending the invitation, and acknowledging the continuation of Islamic and Arabic education in the Moslem Republics of the USSR. Also noting with satisfaction the positive Support which the USSR gave to the rightful Arab cause, and it’s continuous to the policy of apartheid in South Africa.
- The formulation for the kind of deal which the Moslem seek to get to get as the basis for their relations with other in order to enable them to play their full role in consolidating world peace and friend ship between peoples. Those are:
- Respect for the dignity of Moslem minorities and guarantee for their religious freedom. Release of all those imprisoned for their faith and beliefs.
- Where they constitute a sovereign state, they are entitled to independence and non- interference in their internal affairs. The existence of military bases in their territories, and their involvement in military pacts will eliminate their independence and drag them into irrelevant international conflicts. All foreign armed forces should be withdrawn the territory of independent Moslem states.
- To realise the aspirations of Moslem and indeed all the poor people of the world by liquidation the current economic world order in favour of a new just one.
- Respect for the dignity of the Moslem and the poor people of the world who aspire to be treated justly and not as the power full treats the week.
- The establishment on and Islamic Cultural center the Moslem world community in TASHKEND in appreciation for the historic role which the people of central Asia played in the development of Islamic civilization. This to be agreed upon with the soviet authorities concerned.”
I have been pleasantly surprised by the following facts: –
- The official language in the conference was Arabic and the official leaders of the Moslem communities in the USSR spoke it fluently.
- There are schools which cater for Islamic and Arabic studies to a limited extent.
- There is an extensive maintenance activity covering the historic Islamic building and mosque. There are new ones being constructed.
- The officials administering Moslem affairs collect and expend alms and contributions from Moslems.
- People whom we have visited retain a marked degree of Moslem identity and tearful longing for their Moslem brethren. I have also noticed that men, women and children are better fed, better clothed and better educated. In spite of the predominance of the public sector over the economy it is possible to see the extensive private economic activity in both agriculture.
Under Communism there are visible constraints on religious and political freedom. If this is compared with conditions in third world countries we can see that in them there in a degree of secularist restriction against religious freedom and large degree of restriction against political freedom.
When the condition of Moslem in central Asia is compared with what was their lot in Czarist Russia, and with the predicament of their brothers in the third world where there deprivation, ignorance and on freedom, we can see that they are in a better state than I previously thought possible.
I have discussed with some of the authorities there the possibility of extending Islamic activities and they said that they seek to raise the number of pilgrims and would do so if Aeroflot is permitted to land in Jeddah and if consular facilities are available for soviet citizens. Also the Grand Mustafa said that they are quite prepared to participate in interpreting the Quran in central Asian languages. Also they are prepared to avail themselves of extensive scholarships for Islamic and Arabic.
I am convinced that the development of relation between the soviet union and Moslem countries has helped and will continue to help gaining respect for the religious freedom of Moslem in the USSR.
It is through contact, and more contact, -not boycott, that this can happen.
That is on the practical level. On the theoretical level, I have discussed various issues with some authorities and thinkers.
The issues basically are: –
- The recognition that Islam involves belief in God and social justice. This belies the contention that to be socially progressive one should be an atheist.
- The class analysis of social movement my be suitable to developed capitalism. For our societies it is the patriotic national unity which should lead the political progress.
- That our priorities require completing our national, our Arab, our regional and our Islamic development, and that our international policies must reflect those priorities.
Those points were discussed with interest, without coming to specific conclusions.
Finally, I would like to say:
Moslem have preserved their zeal throughout history. Sufi orders, Shiite sects, and even Sunni schools of law have all been forms evolved by Moslem genius to protect Islam autonomy in un-favourable political circumstances. Islamic zeal has weathered all circumstances beginning with conditions in czarist Russia. Once when our visiting party was engaged in some functions, I drew close to a group of young to students of fully secularised schools. I put to them some religious. Some answered correctly. That shows that a certain degree of Islamic education at family level is maintained. The Islamic community will somehow build a thermos- flask to preserve its soul.
Reflecting on the circumstances of Moslem in the USSR it occurred to me that the elimination of destitution and wont will only enhance the people, spiritual and moral needs. Man does not live by bread alone. Destitution will only deflect man’s interests from those values because as IMAM Ali Sadig “hunger is twin to rejection of god”.
Those are my impressions about what I have seen in soviet central Asia.
There is another matter: the USSR is a very important part of the world system today and a realistic rational relation with it is an imperative. Its supporters and opponents have painted a mythological portrait. It is necessary to see the USSR in a de-mythologised reality and to find ways and means of rationally and realistically dealing with it.
AL SADIG AL- MAHDI.
LONDON. 1 OCTOBER 1980.