Can a Muslim become Russian president?

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MOSCOW, July 21 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's demographic trends and religious diversity raise the possibility of Islam becoming a serious political agenda some day, Valery Egozaryan, an international relations expert with the Institute for Society Projects, told the political-economic weekly Ekspert.

A recent poll by the Institute suggests that around 22% of Russian voters (nearly 25 million people) might stick by candidates who share their own religion.

The number of Russian Muslims, who accounted for just 6% of the population in 1959, grew from 8% in 1989 to 10% in 1999. Most post-Soviet migrants who reside in Russia illegally as workers are also Muslims of Central Asian or Azeri descent.

According to Egozaryan, Russia might soon officially lose its classification as a Christian-dominant nation. At today's rate of growth, the Muslim population in Russia will double in 100 years, totaling 16%-18% (20 million) by 2100. If the Orthodox community continues to shrink, Russia will see a new century as a country equally divided along religious lines.

In general, a community amounting to 10% -12% of a country's population should have government representation, otherwise ethnic or religious divisions are inevitable. Recent decades in U.S. history and the conflicts in Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Latvia, and Estonia clearly demonstrate this.

Some Russian Muslims have been politically active on religious issues for years, and their niche is bound to grow, the expert said. He also said an Islamic Russian president might not be as remote a possibility as many think.

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