Ahmad Robert Klimovich: I feel more Latvian being a Muslim
Latvian portal DELFI published an interview with one of the active members of Islamic Culture centre. Ahmad Robert Klimovich embraced Islam 5 years ago. He believes that “Latvia will be Muslim” in 50 years’ time. The interview was extensively discussed among Internet users who could hardly believe that this might be possible. Below you can read the interview which touches upon quite essential issues.
Ahmad Robert Klimovich is well-known in Latvia for his creativity. He is an actor, director, playwright, and cameraman. He is a one-man band! He also works as a press secretary of the Latvian centre of Islamic culture. His recent interview has generated a lot of discussions. How can Latvians turn from nationalists into Muslim?
Ahmad Robert was more than happy to talk to us about the religion and aspects related to it. Why did he decide to convert to such an exotic for our country religion? Is it due to his creative pursuit? “Quite the opposite. In some way, Islam is like heavy shackles for a creative person”. He further explained that “art and creative work is our demons which Islam does not welcome. Yet, there is the so called Islamic cinema which promotes moral values. It is not like western cinema which presents bad taste and depravity as art”.
Klimovich says that he embraced Islam five years ago. In the beginning of 1990s, he was an ardent nationalist at the forefront of the Latvian Atmoda and KGB . “Luckily, I grew up up out of this. I think that the Soviet period was the best time for the Latvian culture development. There were so many outstanding people and a great number of works of art was created. It took quite a while to realise this. Nationalism often verges on jingoism which is a horrible form of this iseology. Instead of being better than others and working on creating a bright future, people focus on the past and make a fetish on it. Yet, it is imposible to improve own life if you do not see own problems. It seem like embracing Islam, I became a more of a Latvian than I used to be before that,” – says Klimovich.
- You might have chosen a faith which is more traditional to a Latvian and a European.
- I have been always in a search of spiritual aspect of our life. I took religions with a grain of salt and could not understand their schemes. I could not understand the concept of trinity. In addition, I saw many people in Christianity and Buddhism who say right words, but act in a different way.
- Many Muslims say that ISIS is far from the commandments in Quran.
- The ISIS image created in the media is a good example of how to manipulate humanity by means of technologies. Most of the TV audience has never been to the ISIS and has never seen it with their own eyes. We do not know anything about it. As a film director, I studied videos of executions and drew a conclusion that all of them are scripted. They do cut off heads at two of these videos, but we do not know who and what for is doing this. It is very important to be very selective who to believe. I trust a German journalist Jurgen Todenhofer . He spent ten days in ISIS and wrote a book a book about this. He does not say anything about executions. In his opinion, the organisation is very radical and takes things as being either black or white. You can ask why I believe him as he is not a Muslim. He is a Christian. I read his books and articles before and he has never told lies. This is the main criterion for me.
- Yet, it is true that most of the recent terror attacks are committed by shakhids.
- It is just the way around. Muslims cannot commit terror attacks as it is forbidden according to their religion. Suicide and murder of unarmed, women, children and prisoners of war are forbidden. Jihad is prescribed to Muslims in certain cases described in Quran. What is happening in the world today is terrorism that has no nationality.
- Are you thinking about going to ISIS so that to understand what is going?
- No, I am not quite interested in what is going in other countries. It is important for me to keep order in my own place, at the area I live and in my own country. Muslims are not those who shout things about Islam, but those who live in accordance with it. Islam is a unique system which has instructions for any life situations.
- This is what Europeans are worried about. They are afraid of Muslims imposing their rules on them.
- It has no sense. Islam does not contradict Christianity. Furthermore, we believe that Jesus is a Muslim and his teaching is Islam. He never called people to worship him. The prayer “Our father” is the understanding of God which is the essence of Christianity and Islam.
- I heard that a true Muslim should read in Arabic. Do you read it?
- There are many things which a true Muslim should do. The most important thing is to perform salat (prayer). The current problem of all the religions is to consider believers those who practise religion or those who consider themselves to be believers. Yet, many people say that their prayer is in their hearts. It is not compulsory to know Arabic. One should be able to read Surahs in Arabic.
- Has Islam changed your life?
- My life has changed dramatically. I am a more family man now. Everything is much easier now. We live in the forest now. We have three children. I hope we will have more. The most difficult thing is to perform salat. I organise my day in accordance with prayer time. I have new friends now. I do not drink alcohol at all. It is forbidden in our religion and I was not interested in it before embracing Islam. People drink alcohol when they lack love. According to Islam, a husband serves his wife and a wife serves her husband. Love is in serving each other. Western culture promotes the idea that love means taking advantage of each other and enjoying each other. Therefore, many people are not happy. To give love out and to receive it, a heart should be open. Yet, the heart is stony without faith.
- Has your wife converted to Islam too?
- She did it before me! Although we are allowed to marry Christians, I believe that it is better when everybody in a family is Muslim. Otherwise, it is quite hard to live together. Husband and wife are the most important people for each other. I thought that friends are more important some time ago. Yet, you live with your wife rather than with your friends. I can find like-minded people in the Islamic culture centre.
- What do you think about refugees?
- That is another myth that all the refugees are Muslims. There are more than a hundred people living in the Latvian refugees centre. Only about 20-30 of them go to the mosque and practice Islam. It is not up to refugees’ choice to go to Latvia. They are sent in here. There is nothing to worry about as they will not stay in here. I am quite surprised at the way our people treat refugees. They have an irresponsible attitude towards them. We are responsible for those who flee from the war. Yet, nobody protests against by the embassies of the countries that bombard the Middle East. In other words, we approve bombardments but do not want to deal with their consequences and welcome those who suffer from them. Yet, it is not Islam that started Crusades against the world. It is Europe and America that went against Muslim countries. How can we criticize economic migrants if a quarter of our own population has gone to work abroad? We have no right to condemn anyone except for ourselves. By the way, those people from the East “integrate” into the European society quite quickly. The go to parties and forget about their religion and prohibitions.
- A new mosque has been recently built in Latvia. It seems like there are getting more Muslims in the country. Is the Muslim community big and how does it grow?
- The mosque construction was finished a few months ago. We have not received all the documents for it though. There was not enough space in the old mosque and we were fined for having prayed outside. This is why our Muslim sisters do not go to the mosque on Fridays as there is no space for them to pray. They do not formally explain the reasons for this delay. Unofficially, security police does not allow to. This is despite the fact that our community is not that big. There are only a few hundred people. Most of them are ethnic Muslims – Tatars, Bashkirs and Chechens. There are students who come and leave the place every so often. Most of the newcomers are local people – Russians and Latvians. We speak to each other in different languages and have never had any misunderstanding. Some people think that all the refugees speak Arabic, but this is not quite right. There are refuges from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq who only speak their own languages.
- Is the Latvian community the biggest among the Baltic States?
- No, it is not. Lithuanian one is bigger. Islam has a different historic background in Lithuania. In the 16th century, there were Tatars among the personal guard of Vytautas the Great. Tatar villages have been in the country since that time. The Lithuanian government built a new mosque for them in the centre of Kaunas in 1930. Although Muslims have been living there for centuries, its quantity started to grow only recently. It is the same as in Europe.
- Why is that?
- It does not seem to be sensible to look for any rational explanation of this. According to the Holy Scriptures, God has His own plan for the humanity development. People lost a reason to live because of the oversupply of material comforts. It is clear that no joys can fulfill emptiness of the soul.
- Why do you believe that Latvia will be a Muslim country in 50 years’ time?
- This is not my forecast. International research studies published by the Environmental Protection Club in 2009 show that Europe will be Muslim in 36 years. I said that it would take more time, but everybody was alarmed. Just think about this: 57 people leave Latvia every day. Population of the country is decreasing and refuges will not come to us. Only those who live in the country can add to its population. Muslims have a lot of children and disbelievers do not aim at having many children. They drink and get mad…
- You do not believe in the revival of Christianity, do you?
- I do not because it does not correspond to the things that Christ commanded. It has no discipline which is a straight way to extinction. Muslims value deeds rather than words. We worship God by means of what we do. It is not very welcomed in our country though. The security policy regularly calls me as I turn out to be a dangerous member of the society. I do not drink alcohol, do not smoke and have many children though.
- When or if Latvia is Muslim, will there be Christians in it?
- This is not up to me. This a question we can ask God. Quran teaches us to respect Christians and we live together in many countries quite peacefully. This question is for Christians: will they want to preserve their own faith?