Vladimir Putin Says Muslim Schools Can Help Stop 'Destructive' Ideas

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with employees during a visit to the Gorbunov Aviation factory in Kazan, Russia on January 25, 2018. REUTERS

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Thursday at a meeting with Muslim clergy that he supported a "revival of Islamic education in Russia," as a way to tackle radicalization and "destructive" ideas.

"Traditional Islam is an integral part of the Russian cultural code, and the Muslim Ummah [community], without any doubt, is a very important component of the multinational Russian people," he said. He added that he will "definitely support" Islamic education in "major state universities," The Moscow Times reported.

He added, "These ideas, even destructive ones, can only be tackled in one way – through other ideas. Those, which are being promoted and taught to the people in the Theological Academy, which was created here [in Kazan] and in other academies and educational institutions… in Moscow, Ufa and the Caucasus."

Putin's support was welcomed by clergy members at the meeting, but Russia's some 20 million Muslims still continue to face obstacles in their treatment in the country. Al Jazeera reported in December that Muslims in Russia "face widespread xenophobia," saying that 27 percent of Russians reported "irritation, dislike, or fear" toward the country's mostly Muslim Central Asian population, with 20 percent of the country believing their presence should be "limited."

Aina Gamzatova, who heads Russia's largest Muslim media holding, announced in December that she wanted to run against Putin for the presidency in March. Putin is still likely to win, but her candidacy brings attention to the problems Muslim communities in the regions of Dagestan and the Northern Caucasus face, especially with her opposition to Wahabi Muslims wanting to create a separate state in the Northern Caucasus region.

"Our country, Russia, is our home, and if we divide ourselves into Muslims and Christians, Caucasus natives and Russians, our country's government will not exist," she wrote on Facebook when she announced her candidacy.