Russia 090421 Basic Political Developments

Some of Russia’s Muslims Seeking to Define a Place between ‘Dar ul-Islam’ and ‘Dar ul-Harb’

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Some of Russia’s Muslims Seeking to Define a Place between ‘Dar ul-Islam’ and ‘Dar ul-Harb’

20 April 2009

By Paul Goble / Special to The Moscow Times

Muslim theorists traditionally have divided the geography of the world between the dar ul-Islam, or “abode of peace,” in which Muslim governments rule over Muslim peoples, and the dar ul-harb, or “abode of war,” in which Muslims find themselves in places with non-Muslim governments and are urged to practice jihad to change that.

But some Muslim writers now argue that Muslims living in non-Muslim areas must make a distinction between countries where Muslims can practice their religion freely and whose governments have good relations with Muslim countries and those where Muslims remain subject to discrimination and whose governments are hostile to the world of Islam.

If Muslims in the latter must continue to view themselves as living in the dar ul-harb with all the religiously-based demands for struggle that entails, these writers say, Muslims living in the former need to revise that approach and recognize that they live in a third space, the dar ul-akhd, which might be rendered as “abode of coexistence.”

This idea has been at the margins of a broader discussion on Muslim minorities, and to this day, a large majority of the world’s Muslims appears to reject the whole idea either because it represents the kind of innovation of the faith that traditionalists reject or because it appears to be a tool by non-Muslims against the faithful.

That makes any treatment of the subject particularly important. The appearance of a sympathetic treatment of this idea by Ruslan Kurbanov, a leading Moscow expert, in an article on the Russian Federation’s largest Islamic web portal, and, even more, his promotion of such ideas on a Muslim Internet television channel, are thus especially intriguing.

Kurbanov, a senior specialist at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies, reviews the works of those Muslim writers who have suggested that modernity requires the unpacking of the concept of dar ul-harb, given the number of Muslims who live in states governed by non-Muslims and the diversity of those states.

Many of these authors, he notes, suggest that Koranic requirements for conducting jihad should be adjusted depending on whether these countries protect the rights of Muslims and seek friendly relations with Islamic countries or fail to protect the rights of the Islamic community and are hostile to the worldwide umma.

In the former category, Kurbanov suggests on the basis of the writings of these authors, are European countries, and there Muslims should work within the political system that protects them. In the latter category, the Moscow investigator says, is Israel, and there, these writers agree, the requirements for jihad remain unchanged.

But even more important perhaps than his article is Kurbanov’s more forceful presentation of it on Internet television. That broadcast is likely to reach a larger audience, simultaneously attracting support and generating opposition in the coming weeks and months.

This search for a middle ground between dar ul-Islam and dar ul-Harb may be a harbinger of further changes in the relationship between Russia’s Muslims and the Russian state, either prompting a strengthening of the traditional deference of that community to the authorities or alternatively sparking dissent to this reformist approach.

At the same time — and this is implicit in both Kurbanov’s article and his television presentation — at least some of the Muslims of the Russian Federation may use this argument to demand that Moscow protect their rights more than it has in the past or possibly face a more open challenge from the increasingly numerous community.

This idea could also have some international resonanceby providing the Russian government with a new argument in its campaign to join the Organization of the Islamic Conference and other institutions in the Muslim world — although in this case too, the argument could have exactly the opposite effect.

National Economic Trends

Russia may deplete Reserve Fund by 2010F due to economic slump

Unicredit, Russia

April 20, 2009

Russia might fail to collect some R800bn ($24bn) out of planned tax revenues in 2009, due to poorer-than-expected economic conditions, Vedomosti reports, citing Deputy Finance Minister Tatiana Nesterenko. This might force Russia to use its entire Reserve Fund (R4,100bn or $121bn as of April 1, 2009) as soon as 2010F.

Presently, the federal budget envisages tax revenues at some R6,700bn ($200bn) in 2009, with expected oil prices at around $41/bbl and the budget deficit at nearly R3,000bn ($90bn or over 7%of GDP). The latter is to be financed mostly from the Reserve Fund, which was expected to have some 1,900bn ($57bn) at year-end - an amount that was to finance budget deficits over the next 1-2 years. However, if the authorities indeed fail to meet the already reduced tax collection targets, massive public spending this year might indeed force the government to spend the entire Reserve Fund in 2010.

Despite some negative implications, we do not expect a strong market reaction to the news, as it should open a new stage of discussions on future Russian budgetary policy and the outcome of those talks is still unclear. We would also note that revenues might actually exceed the target if oil prices were to stay well above the projected average of $41/bbl in 2009. However, the news clearly indicates the limits of extremely expansionary Russian fiscal policy, which cannot last for long.

Unemployment rate slow, wage arrears still rising

April 20, 2009

The rate of the rise in unemployment has slowed, but wage arrears are still rising and hit a three-year high of 8.3% in March.

While green shoots are appearing in the Russian economy - some sectors like metallurgy are seeing some recovery and the domestic bond market is function again for the blue chips - the damage done by the economic crash of the last six months is still eating into the fabric of the economy.

The lasting damage the loss of economic momentum will have is on the consumer. As companies downsize and continue to struggle to pay off debts they took out to finance fast growth the main victim is the workers who are either loosing their jobs or at least being paid less. This damages Russia's main economic driver - consumer consumption.

Even if some sectors are starting to recover falling consumption has now built up a momentum of its own and will continue to pull the economy down even if the external environment and confidence improves.

More than half am Russians received only part of their wages in March, the State Statistics Service data showed Friday. Arrears rose to RUB8.76bn ($262m) as of on April 1, reports Reuters, compared with RUB8.09bn a month earlier. Just under 95% of companies that failed to pay their staff said the reasons was a lack of working capital. The rest said they delayed payments because they were waiting on state or regional funds owed them. Manufacturing accounted for nearly half of the wage arrears and a transport accounted for a fifth.

In the last crisis in 1998 wage arrears rose to $3.8bn and sparked social unrest.

Still, there should be a turn about in wage arrears in the coming months. Tatyana Golikova, Russian health and social development minister, reported last week that after government employment support programs started working in provinces in February and March the rise in the level of unemployment has already slowed.

"When the programs started working at the end of February, a trend toward a decline in growth of registered unemployment has been clearly visible. In the past five weeks, growth in registered unemployment has been 1.5%-1.7% [weekly], compared to 9% that was recorded weekly in January and February," she said.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed off on an order to allocate RUB33.95bn to support jobs in the regions, most of which will be used for unemployment benefit payments.

Nevertheless, the government is now predicted a much higher rate of officially registered unemployment by the end of this year, increasing its estimate last week from 2.2m to between 2.5m and 2.6m, or about 3% of the country's working-age population. The number of officially registered unemployed persons in Russia amounted to 2.199m as of April 1, the Healthcare and Social Development Ministry said earlier.

The total number of unemployed, including those not registered, it about three times higher than the official number and will top 10% of the population if these predictions hold.

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