In my blog post on November 4th on occasion of the Day of National Unity I mentioned that Russia today is performing a balancing act due to multinational and multicultural character of the contemporary Russian society. In his address to the leaders and heads of religious organisations President Vladimir Putin also mentioned that, barring certain differences, all religions consider all people equal in front of God. Today we’ve learnt that this is not quite so. The Council of Ulema of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Russia has imposed the ban on mixed marriages.
“The Council of Ulema decided that Muslims should not marry representatives of other faiths, in particular Christians and Jews. Interfaith marriages are permissible only in certain cases with the permission of the local muftiat… Common values are important for people as close as husband and wife. The similarity of spouses in religion is the most important condition for a happy life”
The decision to ban mixed marriages can create certain problems. Since the Soviet times there have been a lot of mixed – and happy – marriages, so neglecting the question of faith is a long-term habit. Russian Orthodox priests are not particularly welcoming mixed marriages either, and when they have to explain, they also raise the topic of common values. However, the Ulema’s decision that has existed in theory since 2019 pioneers the formal prohibition of future marriages between the representatives of Islam, Christianity and Judaism – something that neither Christian nor Judaic organisations formally did, although similar recommendations against marriages with the unfaithful exist in those religions, too.
Here at this point many people, mainly atheists, shall raise their hands and deplore the ruin that religion causes to people’s lives. Meanwhile, the Ulema explains their decision not only by a lofty idea of a unity of values (faith included), but by a more practical reason. Russian and Jewish girls are known for their beauty, and Muslim men often leave their former Soviet Republics to work in Moscow and other Russian cities to earn money. There they predictably meet and marry non-Muslim girls, while the Muslim beauties (who traditionally must stay with the family) cannot find a man to marry.
So, in truth, this is about demographics, not God.
I always look for good things on such occasions. If anything else, the Ulema’s ban reminds us what family is really about. We’re raised on fairy tales about love at first sight (and I believe in it, too!) However, love at first sight means recognising your other half as the one your soul has been waiting to meet. The soul doesn’t recognise the sex appeal or the hair colour. It recognises values. In case with traditional religions, a particular set of rites is a cornerstone of life. For many others, faith itself is a cornerstone, even if we don’t religiously follow a particular tradition. Hence it is important to know your values and not to compromise on those that matter most. If we look at things from this point of view, the Ulema’s decision suddenly makes sense.