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Bill on scrutiny of religious organizations to protect society from extremists

January 21, 2015, 17:41 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© ITAR-TASS/Valery Bushukhin

MOSCOW, January 21. /TASS/. Amid soaring terrorist threats from radical groups, the Russian government’s bill on scrutinizing religious organizations is both crucial and timely, both polled experts and representatives of religious communities and confessions have told TASS.

The Justice Ministry’s version of the bill has been subjected to public debate. According to the proposed draft, authorized officials will be able to attend public events being held by this or that religious organization only at the invitation of its leaders. The bill concerns the presence, and not participation of civil servants in religious activities, contrary to the original version that ran counter to the principle of separation of the state and the church. As far as financing is concerned, religious organizations are obliged to have special accounts for the funds being received from outside the country.

The Russian Orthodox Church has approved of the Justice Ministry’s bill, a spokesman for the Synodal department for church-society relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, told TASS.

“Russia’s Muslims support the bill on inspections of religious organizations, because in the modern world, the threat of extremist attacks by radical religious groups is as high as it has never been, of which the latest terrorist attacks in Paris are evidence. Those attacks were committed by militants close to the so-called terrorist Islamic State,” the first deputy chairman of Russia’s Muslim Board, Damirkhazrat Mukhetdinov, has told TASS.

“Radical religious groups are operating in Russian territory, too, challenging the state and the society. Had the law on inspections of religious organizations been passed earlier, the heavy loss of human life in the terrorist attacks committed in Moscow, Volgograd and the Caucasus would have been avoided,” Mukhetdinov said.

“As far as financing is concerned, Russia’s Council of Muftis has been getting foreign donations only through the special fund of support for the Islamic culture, science and education. The revenues have been minimized and made transparent for examination,” Mukhetdinov said.

“We welcome the presence of officials at all events arranged by Russia’s Muslim Board. Islam is a universal religion, and not a sect. We always stay public, we hold our activities in the on-line mode and information about our activities is easily accessible to both the authorities and any individual,” Mukhetdinov said.

“The government’s bill on inspecting religious organizations is called to protect Russian believers from pseudo-preachers, including the so-called ‘imams of hatred’,” the president of the Institute of Religion and Politics, member of the presidential Council for Cooperation with Religious Associations, Alexander Ignatenko told TASS.

“The bill is consonant with the measures France, Germany and a number of European Union countries been taking to fight against religious extremism, often fuelled with financial injections from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In Germany, the authorities have planted video cameras at all mosques to record what is being said at the sermons. Law enforcers are present at the events. The measures the Russian authorities have been taking are preemptive. Their purpose is to make society secure before it is too late," he concluded.

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