A local court in Russia has ordered the destruction of a translation of the Qu’ran on the grounds of “extremism”. The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has criticised the judgment, saying that the current system of blacklisting in Russia “amounts to book-burning.”
The Russian translation by Azerbaijani scholar Elmir Kuliyev in considered a scholarly text and is used by around a quarter of Russian Muslims.
If upheld the decision will lead to a nationwide blacklisting of the translation, and since it is not tremendously different from other translations, concerns have been raised that the order is tantamount to a ban on the Qu’ran in general.
The court in Novorossiisk made its judgement in around 10 minutes, with no one except another state agency invited to defend the book, and they did not turn up to the hearing, reports Forum 18. Furthermore, the judgment does not indicate how this translation differs from others, nor gives specific examples of “extremism”, but cited an investigative report from earlier in the year to conclude that the translation contains “statements about the superiority of Muslims over non-Muslims”, “negative evaluation of persons who have nothing to do with the Muslim religion”, and “positive evaluation of hostile actions by Muslims against non-Muslims”.
President Putin has been widely criticised in recent years over the growing relationship between the state and the Russian Orthodox Church, pushing increasingly conservative values and a ban on what he calls “propaganda” about gay rights.
Under Russia’s 2002 anti-extremism law over 2,000 publications have been blacklisted including Goebbels’ diaries and Hitler’s Mein Kampf, the intention ostensibly being to deprive militants of materials which may promote violence. However, the order to destroy the Kuliyev translation has already met with threats of “unrest” from senior Russian clerics.
Responding to the judgment, Sonja Eggerickx, president of IHEU said, “In practical terms, the government cannot truly believe that allowing this ban to go national would in any way help to curtail ongoing Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus, or wider tension with Muslim minorities. On the contrary it is only likely to fan the flames.
“Moreover, on principle, it is wrong to blacklist and destroy literature under general bans. There are times and circumstances when incitement to hatred and violence may be met with legal force, but the current system in Russia amounts to book-burning. It ignores obligations on freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief, and is blind to historical context. We cannot learn from history if we burn Mein Kampf. We cannot understand religion, including grappling with doctrines which may well be supremacist or violent, if we destroy religious texts.
“We absolutely believe that the Qu’ran should be discussed, debated and that even the most severe criticism of a religious text should be lawful. Banning the book in no way helps this cause.
“At the same time, we condemn any moves toward a violent reaction to the ruling. If the order to destroy this translation is unjust, that is no reason to cry “blasphemy” or to promote violent unrest. Far better is to challenge this judgment in the courts and resist it peacefully.
“We hope that the appeal is forwarded to Krasnodar Regional Court in October under the terms of the current ruling, and that a future hearing by judges less prone to censorship will overturn this decision.”