piątek, 16 października 2015

Putin tries to evade conflicts on religious grounds

Two days ago President Putin submitted to the State Duma a bill banning sacred texts (Bible, Quran, Tanakh and Kangyur) and excerpts from them from being recognized as extremist materials in Russia. It is a clear response to the recent conflict between the Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov and a court in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, which ruled that Islamic book labeled "Supplication (Dua) to God: Its Meaning and Place in Islam" was extremist literature and by this mean illegal in Russia. The decision provoked Kadyrov's harsh reaction - he named a judge and a prosecutor who made it "shaitans" and threatened on Instagram to punish them, even if he will have to break the law.

Kadyrov's response was widely interpreted in Russia as a death threat, which means it cannot be ignored. As a result Russia’s prosecutor general’s office stepped in and criticized Chechen leader for his words. Eventually Kadyrov responded by filling an appeal to a higher regional court in Sakhalin demanding to recognize judges' decision as unconstitutional.

What's most interesting it was a rare situation when Kadyrov's protest (however not threats) found understanding among Russian Orthodox Church officials, journalists and even human rights experts. Current extremism laws in Russia are widely criticized for being used to suppress political opposition, independent media and religious minorities. But what showed the "Supplication to God" case extremism laws may also serve as trigger for serious religious conflicts in hands of overeager state officials. Russia is gripped by nationalistic fervor on the one hand and engaged in Syrian conflict against Sunni opposition, while having 10 percent predominantly Sunni Muslim, non-Slavic minority, on the other hand. What can go wrong, if courts still call parts of sacred texts (especially when concentrating only on Quran) extremist and illegal, is obvious.

That's why Putin had to intervene. By submitting a bill protecting main religious texts from extremist laws he crushes in the bud the potentially powerful source of future conflicts. He also sends a message to official religious hierarchies: stay calm, your businesses will be secured.

This story has other aspect. It is the next case showing Kadyrov's significance in securing Putin's rule. He is not only his loyal bodyguard, but also an insider - somebody who understand the Russian Muslim world and serve as a trustworthy alarm box. Time will prove how good he is at both roles.


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