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Holy books in Russia to be immune from extremism charges

October 15, 2015, 20:18 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© Alexander Scsherbak/TASS

MOSCOW, October 15. /TASS/. Russia’s traditional religions will soon be legally immune from prosecution on extremism-related charges. Russian President Vladimir Putin has submitted a bill to the State Duma outlawing "extremism" label in reference to the content of holy books and quotes from them. The bill mentions the Bible, the Quran, the Jewish holy scripture, the Tanakh, and the Tibetan Buddhist canon, the Ganjur. Experts say this is a step in the right direction, adding that it would help prevent utterly unnecessary conflicts in society.

Just recently, a court in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk declared as extremist some quotes from the Quran and for that reason imposed a ban on the book entitled Dua (Calling Out) to God: its Role and Place in Islam. The Council of Russia’s muftis disputed that decision and Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov angrily slammed the judge and the prosecutor as "shaitans (devils) and national traitors."

The chairman of the council of Russia’s muftis, Ravil Gainutdin, said the court’s attempt to outlaw some surahs (chapters) in the Quran exposed the lack of a competent expert community of Muslim theologians in Russia and ignorance regarding the fundamental text of the Islamic religion.

In a comment on the presidential bill Kadyrov said on his page in the social network VKontakte that Putin had taken "an exclusively important and historic step" towards the consolidation of Russian society.

Federation Council (upper house of parliament) member Frants Klintsevich said it was an example of instant response to the realities of life. "As a matter of fact, law provides protection for common sense, centuries-old wisdom of peoples contained in the texts of the Bible, the Quran, the Tanakh and the Ganjur. That’s foolproof protection of the holy texts," Klintsevich said.

The legislator believes that the bill will finally contribute to bolstering the security of the state and prevent conflicts that all of a sudden may erupt out of nowhere.

The complaints were addressed not to only Muslim holy books, the first deputy president of the Centre for Political Technologies, Alexey Makarkin, has told TASS.

"As far as the Bible is concerned, there has been an attempt by a private person to ask a court to look for traces of extremism." He believes that the prerequisites for going to a court of law can be found there, of course. "The Bible is a book written in a very different era, in a very different culture, where there are many things a modern person will hardly find acceptable. The history of events described in the Old Testament looks harsh, indeed. The ethical rules of those years were very different from the current ones. The Old Testament is a book that to a great extent tells the stories of wars. Finding extremism-looking features in it will be very easy."

Makarkin recalls there were attempts at initiating probes at whether the Jewish book the Tanakh agreed with Russia’s anti-extremist legislation.

The expert described the bill as "absolutely correct," because "everything can be reduced to absurdity." He quoted some instances in which law enforcement agencies confiscated whole libraries of extremist organizations. "Then the library goes to a court of law. The experts who are invited to pronounce their judgements are often people without a proper theological education, for instance, teachers from a local university. One should remember that one can come across negative comments about people of other faiths in many holy books. So these experts may conclude: "This book is capable of inciting religious discord." Then the judge declares all books extremist. But there can be both extremist books and books containing some quotes from the Quran. All that is indiscriminately declared extremist."

Makarkin believes that alongside such bans certain rules should be introduced regarding works of art.

This should be done "to prevent situations in which some people may feel like going to court to file lawsuits against museums to demand certain exhibits should be removed display. There must certainly be foolproof protection," he added.

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