Sultan-Galiev on the Moslems

M. Sultan-Galiev, Methods of Anti-Religious Propaganda Among the Moslems. 1922

 

Original Source: Sultan-Galiev, Metody anti-religioznoi propagandy sredi musul’man (Moscow, 1922), pp. 3-7.

The question of the methods of anti-religious propaganda among the Moslems is complicated on the one hand by the position which Islam occupies in the lives of the Moslem peoples, and on the other hand by the social and political conditions of the Moslem peoples in general.

The question of the necessity of anti-religious propaganda among the Moslems, not only in Russia but far beyond Russia’s borders, arouses, of course, no disputes or disagreements among us, the Communists. For us, all religions are alike … What concerns us is choosing the methods by which to carry through this task painlessly and successfully …

We must acknowledge that there are a number of reasons for adopting methods absolutely different from those used among other peoples … Among the “great” religions of the world, Islam is of comparatively recent origin, and therefore it possesses particular strength and vigor… In addition it provides – more than any other faith – rules of political and civil behavior, and in that way it differs from other religions, in which spiritual and ethical motives predominate. Shariat, or the Moslem law, represents a code of laws and legal norms which regulate the entire life of a Moslem…

The second important fact which complicates anti-religious propaganda is the social and economic position of the Moslem people during recent centuries. The defeat dealt to the Arab culture on one hand, and to the Turko-Tatar culture on the other (the expulsion of Arabs from Spain and the Turko-Tatars from southeastern Europe, the conquest by the Europeans of North Africa and Near Eastern Moslem possessions, and the subjugation by the Russians of the Tatars, the Bashkirs, the Mountaineers of the Caucasus, and the Turkic peoples of Central Asia) resulted in the political, social, and economic enslavement of almost the entire Moslem world of 300 million people …

The above fact bound to have a repercussion on the Moslem people’s faith. The first encroachments of Western European imperialism on the Moslem countries took the form of Crusades, but in recent years the struggle has become purely economic. Nevertheless, in the view of the Moslems, or at least the majority of them, this struggle is still interpreted as a political struggle, i.e., the struggle against Islam as a whole. Such an attitude can be easily explained because, according to the Moslems, the entire Moslem world, without distinction of nationality and tribe, represents one undivided whole.

Consequently, Islam is even today, in the eyes of the Moslem peoples, a religion which is oppressed and which must be defended. Hence the difficulty of anti-religious propaganda among the Moslems…

Speaking of obstacles to anti-religious propaganda among the Moslems, we must also mention that these peoples are very backward …

What, then, are the methods that should be used?

First, a very careful and dexterous approach … Our program should be of the nature of anti-religious propaganda, and not of anti-religious struggle. we must knock from the hands of our enemies the weapon they use against us: We must openly say to those concerned that we do not conduct any struggle against any religion, but only propagandize our own atheistic views which we have an absolute right to do.

Second, we must clearly indicate that we have no connections whatsoever with the former missionary groups, and we must have only Communists of Moslem origin to carry on anti-religious propaganda …

Third, we must conduct effective propaganda, and make our own conduct an example of it … It is necessary for every Moslem to get well acquainted with an atheist and to form a good opinion of him. It is desirable to carry on discussions on religious subjects among the Moslem workers in towns and in factories, and gradually pass the information on to the villages.

But when we conduct anti-religious propaganda among the Moslems, we must not forget for a moment that their cultural backwardness and their position as a politically and morally downtrodden people are their main evil … Even since the formation of the autonomous republics, the Moslems have very often stayed away from participation in the political life of their republics. As long as we do-not break these chains of political backwardness, as long as we do not make these peoples truly free and equal citizens of the Soviet republic, no anti-religious propaganda can be successful. The improvement in the education of the Moslem peoples; the extensive drawing of these people into economic and administrative, and also political, organs of the government, whenever that is possible; the widening of party work among them – these are the tasks of the day in the work among the Moslem peoples ….

Source: Xenia Joukoff Eudin and Robert C. North, Soviet Russia and the East, 1920-1927; a documentary survey (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1957), pp. 46-47.

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