Sesungguhnya agama (yang benar dan diredai) di sisi Allah ialah islam dan orang-orang (Yahudi dan Nasrani) yang diberikan Kitab itu tidak berselisih (mengenai agama islam dan enggan menerimanya) melainkan setelah sampai kepada mereka pengetahuan yang sah tentang kebenarannya; (perselisihan itu pula) semata-mata kerana hasad dengki yang ada dalam kalangan mereka dan (ingatlah), sesiapa yang kufur ingkar akan ayat-ayat keterangan Allah, maka sesungguhnya Allah Amat segera hitungan hisabNya. [Surah Ali Imraan: Ayat19]

Rakan Iban Muslim

4 Jun 2009

Russian Converts to Islam Promote Tolerance

[The Moscow Times]
Taras Cherniyenko looks like a typical young Russianbanker: neatly dressed in a short-sleeved shirt andnecktie, with a thin beard and short hair.
Sitting in a cafe on Ulitsa Sretenka, he told thestory of how a spiritual discovery that began in hisearly teens led to his conversion to Islam and theadoption of the name Abdul Karim.Now Cherniyenko is the vice chairman of a neworganization of ethnic Russian converts to Islam, theNational Organization of Russian Muslims.
The values that Islam offers as guidance, such as therestriction on alcohol consumption, are values he andhis colleagues in the group wish to share with Russiaas possible solutions to problems that the countryfaces.
"One can say that drinking vodka or wine is asignificant aspect of Russian culture, yet I can be agood Russian while not drinking alcohol," Cherniyenkosaid. "Most of the social problems in Russia arecaused by alcohol consumption."
If we can introduce some Islamic social values toRussia, society and the country will become stronger."When Cherniyenko tells Russians he is Muslim, theyreact mostly with curiosity, he said. Many ask him whyhe chose to convert, not out of rudeness but out ofinterest.
"I am not counting the hard-core nationalists, ofcourse, but those are maybe only 5 percent," he said."I grew up in a rather liberal environment in St.Petersburg," he said. "My parents encouraged me in allof my studies, which included different religions andcultures."I learned to read the Torah in Hebrew, the Gospels inGreek. I did not study Hindu texts as much,unfortunately, but I did read them."
Cherniyenko's study of different religions led him ona search for a faith whose interpretation wouldcoincide with his own.
"For me, to understand Jesus' passions, one had tounderstand them as a man's passions," he said.
"I wassearching for a faith that, rather than rejectingJesus or worshipping him as a god, would recognize himas a man -- a pure, sinless man, but a man. That ledme to Islam."
The number of Russians who convert to Islam is quitesmall, said Alexei Malashenko, an analyst at theCarnegie Moscow Center. "I would count them in thedozens, at most," he said.
Vladimir Divakhov, a spokesman for the MoscowPatriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, agreed,saying that the church has no stated policy onRussians converting to Islam. "The situation arisesvery rarely," he said.
"Most often, Russian convertsto Islam have been Russian women who marry Muslim men.It occurs very infrequently, however."Cherniyenko estimated that the membership of the groupstands at about 2,000, in approximately 20 of thecountry's regions. He cautioned, however, that sincethe organization has not yet applied for registrationwith the Justice Ministry, no formal list of membersexists.
There are 19 million Muslims in Russia, making Islamthe country's second-largest religion, behind RussianOrthodoxy.Russian conversion to Islam is not always viewedneutrally. In an April 2003 interview with the website, Gusman Iskhakov, the mufti ofTatarstan, expressed his displeasure at the idea ofRussians converting."A person must remain himself. He was born, that ishis homeland, his nation. He must not change hisnation, his religion, his name every year," Iskhakovwas quoted as saying. "The Russians who convert toIslam are not very reassuring. They are usually moreaggressive, and their mentality is completelydifferent."
But a spokesman for Iskhakov's office clarified themufti's remarks, saying that the reporter made themsound more negative than they were intended to sound.
"The mufti said simply that it would make him happierto see more Tatars, Muslims, return to the practice ofIslam," the spokesman said by telephone from Kazan.Cherniyenko dismissed Iskhakov's reported concernsabout the susceptibility of Russian converts toextremism. Another goal the group has is to developdiscipline among Muslims, he said, and to prevent themfrom falling into extremist and militant groups.
Cherniyenko sees Iskhakov's statement as not merely ausurpation of spiritual authority that ultimatelybelongs to an individual Muslim, but also adeprivation of a constitutional right."The Constitution of the Russian Federation givesevery citizen the right to worship according to thedictates of his conscience," he said. "When the muftiof Tatarstan says [that Russians should not convert toIslam], he is taking away a right we have under theConstitution."
Farid Asadullin, assistant to the head of the Councilof Muftis of Russia, offered a more neutral positionthan that reported by"Conversion to Islam is a personal choice," he said."Our task is to encourage a proper understanding ofIslamic teachings. We will work together with such anorganization as the occasion requires, because theyare our spiritual brothers."
As for the group's future, "we hope that we willextend beyond Russia into all of the countries of theformer Soviet Union," Cherniyenko said. At thefounding meeting in Omsk in June, there wererepresentatives of Russian Muslim communities inKazakhstan, and the group has been in contact withpotential members in Ukraine.
Fundamentally, the common thread among theorganization's membership and among all Muslims isspirituality. Cherniyenko's prayers usually have twoparts, he said, the first being a prescribed prayer,required of all Shiite Muslims. The second can beabout anything a person might be feeling on anyparticular day."Mostly, I pray for my mother, my family, and peaceand prosperity for the Muslim community," he said.