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Islam TV Takes To Russia's Airwaves

  • Farangis Najibullah

The new channel will feature round-the-clock news, talk shows and debates, as well as music and entertainment.

The new channel will feature round-the-clock news, talk shows and debates, as well as music and entertainment.

Live from Moscow's landmark Ostankino tower, Russia's television viewers will have a new offering come the end of Ramadan -- a nationwide channel aimed at a Muslim audience and promoting Islamic values.
"The intended primary audience of the new channel is Russia's young Muslims," says Rustam Arifjanov, chief editor of Al-RTV. He admits that the new 24-hour satellite channel, which goes on air on August 19, has its work cut out for it as it attempts to attract young audiences through its offering of news, talk shows, and entertainment and music programs.
However, Arifjanov -- a well-known journalist with 20 years of experience in print, broadcast, and online media -- is confident Al-RTV will find its niche.

"Russia doesn't have any federal television channel dedicated for Muslims. There are only regional Islamic channels in Chechnya and Tatarstan. So, there is a demand for [a television channel] with Islamic content among young Russians who follow Islam," Arifjanov says.

"But our audiences don't have to be only Muslims. There are young people who have interests in the Oriental and Arab world, Indonesia, and Turkey, as well as these nations' traditions and culture."
Al-RTV's producer, Timur Bulgakov, describes the channel's content as "rich, objective, and informative."

"The broadcast content will be prepared about [the lives of Muslims] from all Russian regions, and it is first such effort of its kind. Therefore, it's not going to be a some kind of local channel. There will be coverage from all Russian regions, including Bashkortostan, Daghestan, Chechnya, Russia's central regions, Nizhny Novgorod, and Povolzhye," Bulgakov says.
Pro-Kremlin Clerics

Bulgakov says programs exploring the everyday lives of Russia's Muslim minorities, which make up a seventh -- or 14 percent -- of Russia's population, will feature prominently on Al-RTV'.
Plans for the new Islamic channel were first announced in July by the state-backed Russian Muslims Religious Directorate for European Regions.

Damir Mukhitdinov, the directorate's deputy head, says a so-called Public Religious Council will oversee the channel's activities.
The council consists of several leading pro-Kremlin clerics, most of whom occupy high-ranking posts in Islamic institutions.

"Members of the public council are well-known religious personalities, such as the Mufti of Moscow and Russia's Central Regions Elbir Krganov, head of Mordovia's regional Islamic administration Fehim Shafiev, and the representative of North Caucasus Muslims living in Moscow Shefik Pshikhachev, among others," Mukhitdinov says.
Ravil Gainutdin, the head of the Council of Russia's Muftis, has long echoed calls by leading Muslim clerics for a state-backed, nationwide Islamic channel
In 2009, the leading pro-Kremlin cleric officially asked the Russian government to set up such a channel.
While officially Al-RTV is not operated by the Kremlin, Mukhitdinov did not rule out "state grants" to help finance the Islamic channel "in the future."
"Currently, Al-RTB is being funded by private donors," Mukhitdinov says, while noting that the presidential administration has "greatly" supported the channel.
Al-RTV will be available on Russia's largest satellite television operator, Tricolor, which covers almost all Russian regions. Bulgakov says the channel intends to expand its target audience as well as its number of correspondents on the ground.
Written and reported by Farangis Najibullah, with additional reporting by RFE/RL Moscow correspondents Anton Benediktov and Tom Balmforth.

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