Professor Damir Mukhetdinov, Doctor of Theology and Head of the Centre for Islamic Studies at St Petersburg University, has taken part in the 14th International Doha Conference on Interfaith Dialogue in Doha, Qatar.

This year, the conference’s focus is "Religions and Hate Speech: Between Scripture and Practice". The event was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar and the Doha International Centre for Interfaith Dialogue (DICID). The conference was opened by Dr Ibrahim Saleh Al-Naimi, Chairman of the Board of Directors at DICID, and His Excellency State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar Sultan bin Saad Al Muraikhi.

The event has also been attended by representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church: Dimitry Safonov, Executive Secretary of the Interreligious Council of Russia, and Hieromonk Gregory (Matrusov), Head of the Patriarchal Experts’ Council for Cooperation with the Islamic World. Professor Damir Mukhetdinov was the only representative of Russia who made a key-note presentation at the conference.

Professor Mukhetdinov made a presentation on the social origins of hatred. He spoke about the social and personal reasons behind the spread of the ideology of hatred. The disruption of social ties and failure to integrate into society can cause a sense of humiliation and despair. In such state, young people become susceptible to the influences of the ideology of extremism and hatred. ‘Religious extremism is wrought by the crisis of modern society and is considered a way out of this crisis. Indeed, this is not a way out but a false dead-ending strand. It is built upon a foundation of blind hatred, which is the root of all evil. The hater does not want to correct mistakes, but to destroy the other,’ said Damir Mukhetdinov. ‘Nonetheless, it is an evidence of real social problems, signalling the need for a thorough diagnosis of our societies. We need to understand why so many young people feel alienated and humiliated, and why they let hatred blind them, depriving themselves of independence in their judgements.’

According to Professor Mukhetdinov, extremism has no nationality or citizenship. The ideologies of hatred often lend themselves to historically non-Muslim countries, European in particular — France, England, the Netherlands and others. It is important to remember that extremism is a social phenomenon — to blame it on Islam is fundamentally wrong. He added that all Abrahamic religions have a huge liberating potential, and the task of spiritual leaders is to prevent the agents of terror from appropriating it.

Religious figures should be in constant dialogue, shaping the public discourse, the language that restores self-esteem of people of all religions and origins. It is spiritual leaders who have to bear the responsibility for ensuring a favourable social environment that promotes social justice and personal self-actualisation.

Damir Mukhetdinov, First Deputy Chairman of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Russian Federation, Head of the Centre for Islamic Studies, Doctor of Theology

The primary source of Islam — the Holy Quran — in no way teaches hatred against anyone. Hence, Muslim religious leaders of all countries shall not spare efforts to educate and raise awareness amongst the ummah, Damir Mukhetdinov is convinced. Yet, interfaith dialogue is no less important. ‘Mutual acceptance and cooperation among Jews, Christians and Muslims as equals in interreligious dialogue and building a shared future for mankind will definitely help to deter a number of young people from being carried away by extremist ideas,’ Professor Mukhetdinov stressed.

According to Damir Mukhetdinov, the fight against ideologies of hatred, religious radicalisation and extremism is a fight for the intellectual and moral renewal of Muslims. ‘This fight is for unlocking their full potential and cultivating their sense of belonging through inclusion in the community. This is a fight for human dignity. It is our duty to respond to the challenges of hatred ideologies not only by denouncing and exposing them, but also by offering a convincing alternative,’ concluded Professor Damir Mukhetdinov, Head of the Centre for Islamic Studies at St Petersburg University.