by Aysha Qamar
Russia’s next presidential election is set to take place on March 18, and history is made with the first-ever Muslim presidential candidate challenging incumbent Vladimir Putin.
Prominent female Muslim journalist Aina Gamzatova has announced that she’s running for president. The wife of and advisor to Akhmad Abdulayev, the head of the Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of Russia’s Daghestan, Gamzatova is the first Muslim woman ever to become a presidential candidate in Russia.
46-year-old Gamzatova comes from the Russia’s Muslim-majority republic of Dagestan. A Sufi adherent, Gamzatova serves as the editor-in-chief of Russia’s largest Muslim media Islam.ru, which includes television, radio and print outlets. She also writes books on Islam and runs several charities, according to RT.
While Gamzatova has not made her policy platform public yet, various outlets have reported her opposition to extremism. Dagestan has been troubled by violence from extremist attacks, including one that killed the presidential candidate’s first husband, Muslim leader Said Muhammad Abubakarov.
My candidacy “should not be seen within a clerical context or an attempt of Muslims to create a competitor to Vladimir Putin”, Gamzatova wrote in a piece published on Friday on Islam.ru.
“It is a desire to publicly announce and support on the federal level a harsh anti-Wahhabism stance that both local authorities and some federal officials responsible for the region have tried to silence in recent years,” she added.
Gamzatova is running as an independent contender without backing of a party. As an independent, she will need 300,000 signatures from supporters around the country. Candidates from parties outside parliament need 100,000 signatures, and those from parties inside parliament don’t need any, according to RT.
The March election will be Russia’s seventh. Putin is expected to win his second consecutive term following on from his 2012 victory, having also been president from 2000 to 2008.
In Russia, presidential terms are six years. No one can serve more than two consecutively.
“Even if she loses, people will know that a girl in a hijab is not just a mother or a woman, but is also an educated, wise and respected woman,” former Olympic champion in boxing and Dagestan’s deputy sports minister Gaidarbek Gaidarbekov wrote on Instagram.
Other candidates running against Putin include: veteran ultraconservative politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin and a former socialite-turned-liberal-journalist Ksenia Sobchak.