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Islamic education in Ingushetia: report on the expedition of the Laboratory within the "Rediscovering Russia again" project

From May 14 to May 21, 2022, the Laboratory staff and HSE students conducted an expedition in the Republic of Ingushetia.The activities of Islamic universities in Russian regions have been the focus of attention of the Laboratory staff for several years. A successful expedition to Dagestan in 2019 uncovered a great potential in this direction, but the COVID-19 pandemic did not allow field research. Finally, expedition opportunities have opened up again for HSE staff and students. This time we went to Ingushetia, one of the few regions where monoethnic nature of society is combined with the dominance of Islam. Our Laboratory became the first HSE unit to organize an expedition to Ingushetia, thereby opening up this region from a new perspective.

Upon return from the expedition, we can say with confidence that Islamic education in Ingushetia is developing quite intensively. The first Islamic universities emerged almost immediately after the collapse of the USSR. At the moment, there are two such institutions in the region: one in Sunzha and one in Malgobek, in addition to many madrasahs (Islamic schools) at mosques. In per capita terms the scale of Islamic higher education in Ingushetia is even higher than in Dagestan, where there are 6 religious universities, which is a record for Russia. Besides, Ingushetia has its own traditions of Islam, which managed to survive the pressure exerted on religious leaders during the Soviet period and regain their positions in the course of post-Soviet re-Islamization, while successfully resisting the influence of ideas flowing into the republic from outside.

The expedition turned out to be interdisciplinary. It was attended by students of various educational programs such as "Political Science", "Sociology", "Law", "Journalism", "Physics", as well as the master's programs "Muslim Worlds in Russia" and "Evidence-Based Development of Education". When selecting participants, the leaders of the expedition purposefully broadened the number of educational programs, in order to look at the issues under study from different angles. Students of various specialties harmoniously complemented each other, which made it possible to comprehensively study the field of Islamic education in the region.

While preparing for the trip, students had the opportunity to participate in desk research, to conduct the theoretical part of the study, to take part in the discussion of questionnaires and guides for teachers and students of Islamic universities, as well as to gain experience in searching for respondents and interacting with them.

“The expedition to Ingushetia helped me gain practical experience, which is extremely important for me as a sociologist. This includes qualitative sociological research, conducting interviews, compiling pre-interview guides and analyzing the data obtained.”

Dina Malekova, 3rd year EP Sociology.

During the expedition, students could get acquainted with the history and culture of the Ingush people, which is one of the goals of "Rediscovering Russia" project: 

“The experience I gained during the expedition to Ingushetia cannot be compared with any other trip. Though I had visited the republics of the Caucasus before, I could not achieve such a complete immersion in culture, local life and atmosphere. Fascinating mountain landscapes, delicious cuisine, open and friendly people – that’s what I encountered in Ingushetia! I gained experience in conducting interviews, processing materials and realized which personal qualities helped me to cope well with this, and which ones still need to be developed. In general, I was left under a wonderful impression and now I inspire all my friends to participate in subsequent expeditions so that they also discover Russia for themselves!”

Diana Cheredova, 1st year EP Physics. 

"The expedition to Ingushetia was a turning point in my development as a researcher, giving me a chance to go beyond the usual limits in scientific activity and providing an opportunity to learn how to conduct high-quality field research. This trip helped me understand that the study of Islam should not be closed within the walls of the university, and what I saw and heard convinced me that hours of reading literature on the topic will not replace real communication with people.

The expedition has become an important source of inspiration and motivation not to give up your scientific activity, and also helped to find like-minded people who are just as passionate about research as I am, my future colleagues in the academic environment and good friends."

Yulia Voskoboinik, 3rd year EP Jurisprudence.

 

The expedition members were introduced to the experience of Islamic higher education in Sunzha and Malgobek. Students, teachers and leaders of Islamic universities spoke about how Islamic disciplines are taught and studied, who is interested in Islamic higher education in the republic, as well as about the career perspectives of graduates. In addition, the expedition members managed to communicate with the imams of the Ingush mosques and attend the Friday sermon at the Cathedral Mosque of Nazran.

Representatives of regional authorities also showed interest in the subject of the expedition. During a meeting with students and staff of the Higher School of Economics, Minister for Foreign Relations, National Policy, Press and Information Vakha Abdul-Vagapovich Bekov of Ingushetia noted the timeliness of studying Islamic education in Ingushetia. Also, the members of the expedition discussed possible ways of integrating Islamic education into the Russian general education system with the Minister of Education and Science of Ingushetia, Eset Ibragimovna Bokova.

During the meeting at the People's Assembly of Ingushetia, the expedition members were acquainted with the system of religious education in the republic. Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Local Self-Government, National Policy, Public Relations and Religious Organizations Akhmed Kostoev noted that "an independent study of primary sources will help destroy negative stereotypes about Islam, as well as strengthen interfaith cooperation."

The results of the field study in Ingushetia supplemented the empirical base, the collection of which had begun three years earlier in Dagestan, and made it possible to significantly expand the understanding of the infrastructure of Islamic education in the North Caucasus, as well as the challenges, problems and points of potential development in this area.

One of the main results of the study was formation of a discussion about reforming the educational model in Islamic universities, as the current approach to education is too focused on the training of religious ministers. In addition to the existing model, applied faculties could be created, training specialists in such areas as Islamic finance, Islamic law, production, certification of Islamic products (halal), etc. The emergence of such specialists is important for Russia as a whole in the context of building relationships with Sharia jurisdictions and Islamic financial institutions.