Baku, March 5 – A prosecutor in Tatarstan says that Muslims who possess books that the Russian government has banned may burn or otherwise destroy them to meet Moscow’s requirements, but his announcement is not going to resolve the dilemma many Muslims in this situation currently face.
On the one hand, Muslims in general view the destruction of books mentioning the Prophet Mohammed in a positive way as a sin. And on the other, Russia’s Muslims and their leaders are not only appealing Moscow’s decision to ban books as extremist but gaining increasing support in that cause from Russian officials and academics.
And consequently, their personal convictions, their conviction that the issue is still sub judice, and their belief that incoming Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev will be under pressure to end such bans mean that few Muslims in Tatarstan or anywhere else are likely to begin burning books.
Yesterday, the Islam.ru portal reported that Tatarstan prosecutor Kafil’ Amirov had responded to an inquiry by Valiulla Yakupov, the first deputy mufti of that Middle Volga republic, as to how Muslims, who possess books that have suddenly been declared extremist should act (http://www.islam.ru/rus/2008-03-04/#20021).
The prosecutor acknowledged that Moscow’s ban did not specify what those people should do, but he said that, in his judgment, they could destroy the books in order to bring themselves in line with the ban without any risk that in so doing, they might be charged with the crime of possessing them in the first place.
It is unlikely, however, that Muslims either there or elsewhere in the Russian Federation will be inclined to put themselves at risk by taking Amirov’s declaration at face value. After all, it is only a legal opinion, not the decision of a court or an act of positive law.
Moreover, the leaders of Russia’s Muslim community have spoken out not only against the specific list of publications Moscow has banned but also against the banning and burning of books in general. And they have appealed the ban both in Russian courts and the European Court of Human Rights (http://www.e-islam.ru/news/?ID=1576 and http://forum.msk.ru/material/news/436582.html).
As they have done so, Muslim activists have been gaining support from Russia’s ombudsman, several remembers of the Duma and an increasing number of Russian academic specialists on Islam for their view that these bans are not only inappropriate and discriminatory in particular but also the wrong way to counter extremism.