MOSCOW – A court ruling banning several religious and historic books is inviting a storm of fury from Russian Muslims, who see the verdict as “unjustified”.
“We consider the prohibition of religious literature as an attempt at the revival of total ideological control,” the Russian Council of Muftis said in a statement posted on its website and cited by Russia Today.
“Such practice is unacceptable in a democratic society…and is an alarm signal for Russian citizens.”
A district court in Orenburg, southeast of Moscow, earlier ruled to ban 65 religious and historic books.
The council of Muftis accused the prosecutor and the judge of taking the decision “behind-the-scenes” without inviting the books’ authors and publishers.
It considered the court verdict as the result of the lack of “unbiased, well-grounded, and thorough” conclusions.
“Russian Muslims believe that defining the list of extremist religious literature is the internal affair of each religious confession,” it said.
The Muftis stressed that religious literature “should not be blamed for existing social and political problems.”
The council reiterated that Russian Muslims respect government efforts to fight extremism, but noted that there are occasions when Islamic literature is being put on the banned list.
Only activities of organizations that violate the law must be legally suppressed, the Muftis stressed.
The court ruling was issued under an anti-extremism law that has been widely criticized for lack of clarity.
Last week, the Public Chamber and religious leaders called for amendments to the law.
Under the initiative, all religious texts of registered organizations should be freed from accusations of extremism, according to Kommersant daily.
“It’s not clear to anyone where exactly extremism begins,” said Aleksandr Verkhovsky, the director of the Sova Center for analysis.
“The level of threat of an activity is not taken into account either. The law covers both terrorism and drawing filth on walls.”
The Public Chamber is also set to come up with proposals on the improvement of the law.
If the initiative is supported by the State Duma deputies, the federal list of banned extremist materials might be reconsidered or even canceled.
The Russian Federation is home to some 23 million Muslims in the north of the Caucasus and southern republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.Islam is Russia's second-largest religion representing roughly 15 percent of its 145 million predominantly Orthodox population.
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