At its extraordinary session last Tuesday the Interreligious Council in Russia accepted the resignation of its executive secretary Roman Silantyev and issued a special statement about the scandal around his book A Modern History of the Islamic Community in Russia. Thus, the two month-long struggle of a good one third of the Islamic leaders in Russia with the 28 year-old Islamic researcher ended in a ‘dead heat’ - Silantyev left the Interreligious Council without any censure brought by its presidium and without any apologies made by him but with promises to republish his much-talked-of study with considerable additions. Moreover, he has managed to enlist the support of a good number of authoritative Muslim leaders, Islamic researchers, of the Orthodox public at large and even Jews and Buddhists.
At the same time, the Interreligious Council itself has stood a durability test showing vividly that it is not a decorative conciliating structure but a real political force capable of overcoming an internal crisis in a democratic way and fighting off defamatory campaigns.
However, most of the analysts agree that a crisis of this kind in the Interreligious Council was only a matter of time. Indeed, a deep rift in relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Council of Muftis in Russia broke out last March when Mufti Ravil Gainutdin condemned the introduction of Basic Orthodox Culture in secondary school, thus denouncing the agreements reached in the Interreligious Council. The Orthodox chose not to argue but tactfully pointed out that Mufti Gainutdin could not speak for all the Muslims in Russia as most of them supported the introduction of the Basic Orthodox Culture in school. It was a miracle that a scandal did not erupt at that time but mutual resentments remained and began to pile.
It is perhaps good that the steam has been let out of the boiler before the New Year celebrations rather then a week before the World Summit of Religious Leaders and that it has been done thanks to the publication of a highly specialized monograph rather then the construction of an Orthodox church in ‘Muslim’ Beslan. Now the Council of Muftis will most probably try to restore as quickly as possible the friendly relations with the Russian Orthodox Church and enhance the culture of interreligious dialogue.
Indeed, there is one patriarch and still many supreme muftis in Russia.