Vienna, June 10 – On the 19th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Moscow officially included his political testament on the list of publications Russian courts consider extremist and hence have banned, an action certain to infuriate many in Iran, please some in the West, and increase calls in Russia itself for an end to such bans.
A week ago, Russia’s Federal Registration Service (FRS) added several more items to its list of extremist and hence banned items. Among them was Khomeini’s testament, a work that has been translated into many languages and is studied by Iranians, other Shiites, and academic specialists around the world (www.islamcom.ru/material.php?id=616).
Adding insult to injury and certain both to offend Iranians and complicate Moscow’s diplomatic relations with Tehran, this new listing appeared precisely on the 19th anniversary of the leader of the Iranian revolution against the shah, a time when many people in his country recall his life and teachings.
Indeed, on the day Moscow was banning Khomeini’s testament, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei told his people that Khomeini’s legacy, including that document, provides continuing guidance to Iranians on how they should live, work, and spread their faith to others
According to a commentary on Islamcom.ru, “the chain of stupidities” that led to this situation began in the Penza procuracy in early 2006. Having failed to win a case against local Muslims, prosecutors sent to the regional laboratory of judicial experience “a mountain of books and cassettes.”
Two junior investigators there, Irina Geranina, a philologist, and Elena Loginova, a psychologist declared Khomeini’s testament, written “almost 30 years ago to the Iran people “dangerous now for Russian citizens” because of its direct call for Iranians to struggle for “the realization of [their] freedom and independence.”
The two investigators said that they had based their judgment on the “Soviet Encyclopedic Dictionary” of 1982, Russian language dictionaries, and “works on ‘the hidden emotional content of media texts.” They even acknowledged that they had applied “elements of neuro-linguistic analysis” to the word Allah.
Two years later, on February 21, 2008, a court in Gorodishcha in Penza oblast declared Khomeini’s testament extremist and subject to ban on the basis of Geranina and Loginova’s report. And then on June 3rd, the Moscow organization charged with recording and disseminating such findings included them in its latest update of extremist literature.
The FRS is slated to be disbanded on October 1, and Islamcom.ru expressed the hope that lists of banned literature will disappear as well, especially now that the lists are creating foreign policy problems for Moscow – Russia had earlier offended many Turks by banning the works of Turkish theologian Said Nursi.
But the Muslim site expressed concern that local prosecutors and judges may not be restrained without a clear statement from above, and it suggested that someone might come up with the idea of banning Aristotle in advance of the Olympics, given some of the comments he made about athletics – and then “we will find ourselves arguing with Greece” too.
But unfortunately, two widely reported developments over the past week underscore that this problem in Russia is broader and deeper than just some overly enthusiastic prosecutors and judges. On the one hand, leaders of most of Russia’s traditional religions called for a ban on the “South Park” television series (www.islamnews.ru/news-12381.html).
And on the other, outspoken Russian Orthodox intellectual and missionary Deacon Andrey Kurayev called for banning Mikhail Bulgakov’s classic -- and during most of the Soviet period, prohibited -- The Master and Margarita, from being used in Russian schools (www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=monitor&id=12339).