ASRIE Analytica attended the conference “Modeling interethnic and interreligious relations in a secular state”

The director of ASRIE Analytica Dr Giuliano Bifolchi took part in the online conference “Modeling interethnic and interreligious relations in a secular state” attended by Russian and foreign experts and religious leaders and organised by the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation.

On December 10th, 2020, the Commission for the Harmonisation of Interethnic and Interreligious Relations of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation (Komissija po garmonizacii mezhnacional’nyh i mezhreligioznyh otnoshenij Obshhestvennoj palaty Rossijskoj Federacii) with the assistance of the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia (Duhovnoe sobranie musul’man Rossii) organised the online conference “Modeling interethnic and interreligious relations in a secular state” attended by representatives of the scientific and expert community, members of the Public chamber of the Russian Federation, religious and public figures from Russia, the United States, the United Arab Emirates,  Italy, Czech Republic, Europe, and Asia.

The mufti Albir R. Krganov (Islam in Russia and the fight against terrorism: meeting with Albir Krganov), chairman of the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia, deputy head of the Commission on Harmonisation of Interethnic and Interreligious Relations of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation and head of the Working Group on Counteraction to Pseudoreligious Extremism of the Counterterrorism Coordination Council, chaired the conference attended by:

  • Alexander Yakovlevich Shkolnik, Deputy Secretary of the Public chamber of the Russian Federation, Director of THE Central Museum of the great Patriotic war of 1941-1945;
  • Vladimir Yuryevich Zorin, Chairman Of the Commission on harmonization of interethnic and interreligious relations, addressed the conference participants with greetings;
  • Thomas Wipf, President of the European Council of religious leaders – Religions for Peace;
  • Mohamed Abbas Almutazim, President of the Union of Muslims of the Czech Republic;
  • Dr Mohammed Al-Bishari, Secretary-General of the World Council of Muslim Communities (WCC);
  • Imam Mohammad Bashar Arafat, President of the Council for Islamic Affairs, Maryland (USA), Founder of the Foundation for the Exchange of Civilizations and Cooperation;
  • Giuliano Bifolchi, director of ASRIE Analytica, OSINT analyst, and academic researcher on Islam, security, and counter-terrorism
  • Ahmad (Arthur) Wagner, Chairman of the IDEL Analytical centre in Berlin;
  • Vladimir Romanovich Legoida, Chairman of the Synodal Department of the Russian Orthodox Church for relations between the Church and society and the media;
  • Elena Aleksandrovna Agapova, Deputy Chairman of the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian society;
  • Jonathan Feldman, Head of religious programs of the Federation of Jewish communities of Russia;
  • Sergey Kirishov, Member of the Public chamber of the Republic of Kalmykia, Vice-President of the Kalmyk Buddhist Association;
  • Oleg Goncharov, First Deputy Chairman of the Euro-Asian division of the General conference of the Adventist Christian Church;
  • Anton Ignatenko, Director Of the Institute of religion and politics;
  • Sergey Ryakhovsky, Chairman of the Pentecostal Russian United Union of Evangelical Christians, member of The Commission on harmonization of interethnic and interreligious relations;
  • Abdul-Kuddus Asharin, Chairman of the Spiritual administration of Muslims of the Sverdlovsk region.

The conference was devoted to the problems of growing inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions in the world in the light of recent terrorist attacks in European countries, studying international experience in coordinating the interaction of the state with religious and ethnic organizations, civil society institutions in order to counter the spread of terrorism and extremism.

The participants stressed their interests and experience in moderating interreligious and interethnic relations in their countries and they agreed that in the contemporary era is difficult to ensure a balance of interests of representatives of different peoples and religions, but this is a necessary condition for the prosperity of modern secular states. In fact, many countries today are facing the problem of religious extremism on national and religious grounds.

Our director Dr Giuliano Bifolchi stressed that nowadays in Europe we are facing terrorism and migration crisis as the main threats for the regional security (apart from Covid-19). These two phenomena might be considered the consequences of Western geopolitical strategies in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, and particularly after the 9/11, Western countries have influenced the local dynamics of the Arab-Muslim world. In the last two decades, we have witnessed the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 which marked the beginning of a prolonged war, the military operation in Iraq which toppled down Saddam Hussein’s regime but created the fertile ground for the rise of the Islamic State, and the support for local militant groups or political movements in North Africa during the Arab Spring in 2011.

Therefore, some Western countries have intervened in Middle Eastern and North African countries without considering the consequences of their actions: the rise of terrorist groups due to the vacuum of power and the migration crisis of those people who want to escape from the war seeking a better future in Europe.

Nowadays in Europe, due to the media, terrorism and migration crisis are interconnected with Islam and the dilemma if Christians and Jews can coexist and live with Muslims. Some political parties in different European countries have tried to exploit these two phenomena promoting the rhetoric of the ‘Islamisation of Europe’: according to their propaganda, because the majority of migrants are coming from Muslim countries, the Europeans are experiencing a sort of ‘Islamic invasion’ whose final goal is to transform the dar al-harb (literally translated with ‘house of war’ – Europe) into dar al-Islam (literally translated with ‘house of peace’), a region where Islam and shari’a will be the guideline and the core of the society.  

This political propaganda is nourishing the Islamophobia (fear of Islam and the Muslims), a negative feeling towards the Muslims which is becoming a potential destabilising factor for the interfaith dialogue and the coexistence among believers of different religions.

Dr Bifolchi concluded his speech highlighted the necessity of cooperation between countries and international organisations to counteract the spread of jihadist propaganda and terrorist organisations and promote the interfaith dialogue. Unfortunately, because geopolitics matters, nowadays European countries cannot cooperate with other international actors such as the Russian Federation due to the Ukrainian Crisis and the EU sanctions against the Kremlin. For instance, even though Brussels has always confirmed its commitment to contrasting jihadist propaganda and fighting terrorist groups, some European countries have hosted the servers of those website accused of spreading jihadist ideology by the Kremlin as Kavkazcenter.com.