Russia Prohibits Qur'an Translation, Act II

By Ruslan Kurbanov
IUMS Member — Russia

"I believe that this judge is a terrorist, because he fueled the activity of military groups fighting Russia," said Shevchenko. (Reuters)
Russia Prohibits Qur'an Translation, Act II

The Russian system of justice once again shocked the whole world as the district court of Novorossiysk city recognized the Russian translation of the Holy Qur'an by the famous orientalist scholar Elmir Kuliev as an extremist book.

This decision is based on the announcement made by the Novorossiysk transport Prosecutor's Office  that the translation of Kuliev contains "information which can be estimated as extremist;" such information pertains certain contexts that refer to the superiority of Muslims over non-Muslims.

After the court decision comes into force, a copy of it will be sent to the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation to enable Kuliev's translation of the Qur'an to be added to the Federal list of extremist materials.

It should be noted that Russia witnessed a similar case when a collection of classic Islamic books were banned about a year ago including: the book of hadiths of Imam an-Nawawi, Sirah of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) compiledby highly-esteemed scholars Safi-ur-Rahman al-Mubarakpuri and Ibn Hisham, a book on the life stories of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), the works of Imam al-Ghazali, and other classic works on Islamic Fiqh and Shari'ah.

Earlier this year, Russia witnessed an unsuccessful attempt to prohibit the translation of the Qur'an by the decision of the District Court of Orenburg city.

Experts’ Reactions

Well-known journalist and expert on Islamic culture Maxim Shevchenko, commenting on the situation to Islam News Agency, saying that the "insanity of the Russian judicial system reached exorbitant heights".

Russian Muslims were shocked by this decision of Novorossiysk's court. The Muftis' Council of Russia (MCR) — the most influential Muslim organization in the country — immediately issued a statement through its head, Mufti Ravil Gainutdin, describing the decision as a " reckless and blasphemous" one.

“I officially appeal to the authorities of the Russian Federation to stop this shameful practice of banning traditional Muslim religious literature and to change the absurd procedure for examining such cases in the courts," said Mufti Gainutdin in the statement.

The co-chair of MCR, Mufti Nafigullah Ashirov, said in his interview with the Russian News Service that the decision to ban translation of the Qur'an is absurd.

"In fact, any denomination or ideology postulates its superiority, including communism, democracy, and so on. Islam, in this case, is not an exception. As a Muslim, I believe that Islam is the true religion, and all other religions are canceled," said Ashirov.

The famous orientalist and the professor of St. Petersburg's State University Gumer Isaev compared the extent of the banning of Muslim literature in modern Russia with the era of persecution of religion in the years of Stalin's rule. According to Prof. Isaev, this is a practice that gives rise to acute inter-faith discord and outlaws millions of Russian Muslims. "Because of what is happening, a rhetorical question can be addressed to the ’authors of this decision:’ is it a demonstration of national stupidity or is it a deliberate policy of the authorities? And what should we expect next?"

Well-known journalist and expert on Islamic culture Maxim Shevchenko, commenting on the situation to Islam News Agency, said that the "insanity of the Russian judicial system reached exorbitant heights."

"I believe that this judge is a terrorist because he — by this prohibition of the Qur'an — fueled the activity of military groups fighting Russia more than all anti-Russian propaganda sites together. He showed that the so-called Russian justice system hates the Qur'an and Muslims, and that Russian justice is ready to ban the sacred book of Muslims in the Russian translation," Shevchenko explained.

Real Reasons Behind the Ban

Muslim journalist Orhan Jemal attracted the attention of colleagues to the randomness of such judgments against Islamic books. The accusations that try to label Islamic books as extremists “are carried out in the framework of the criminal prosecution of particular Muslim communities."

According to Jemal, law enforcement officers in Russia follow very simple method when they are eager to imprison a particular practicing Muslim or to ban particular Muslim community, they just admit the books confiscated from Muslims as an extremist literatureand this is enough to put people in jail. "The practice of recognizing Muslim books as an extremist literature is a guaranteed way to get rid of unwanted people," Jemal said.

The Director of the Human Rights Centre of the World Russian People's Council Roman Silantyev, known for his anti-Islamic positions, earlier noted that Russian security forces, while banning books, make their decisions  looking primarily at a particular arrested Muslim rather than at the literature confiscated from him.

"Only after arresting particular Muslims wanted by  the authorities and looking for solid reasons which can justify these arrests, Russian law enforcement officers begin to find extremism in confiscated books," said Silantyev .

Silantyev offers very simple way to solve the problem of so-called “Islamic extremism” in Russia: to ban all Muslim books published in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other Muslim countries.

Moreover, this person called upon Christianity figures, the dominant denomination in Russia, and authorities to verify all the Muslim literature for its practiced approach towards Christianity.

In addition, Silantyev approved a trend of banning Muslim literature in Russia. "The authorities are going in the right direction, making such lists of extremist literature," he said.

After the recent banning of Qur'an's translation by Elmir Kuliev, Silantyev frankly admitted that this ban was due to efforts exerted by him and his "colleagues," writes Gazeta.ru.

He claimed that both Russian Muftis Talgat Tajuddin and Farid Salman, known for their absurd positions on a number of Islamic issues, signed with him a letter to the Interior Ministry in request of checking on the extremism mentioned in a number of Islamic books, including translations of the Quran.

Line of Russian Muslims

The author of the banned Qur'an's translation Elmir Kuliev said on this occasion: "I confess that for me the decision was not unexpected. Serious flaws in the Russian legislation against extremism allow any petty officer to initiate the so-called religious expertise and prohibit almost any religious or philosophical work. Even without informing neither the author, the publisher, nor the scientists who deeply understand the subject.”

“Some of the Muslim works included in Russia's list of extremist materials are part of world heritage. Of course, it does no honor to Russian experts,” resumed Kuliev.

Another Muslim expert, Abdullah Mukhametov, noted that persons standing behind banning Kuliev's translation of the Qur'an deliberately seek the marginalization of Islam and Muslims in Russia and strengthening the alienation of Muslims from their own state.


In Mukhametov's words, this judgment on Qur'an's translation makes from the Russian Muslim enemies of the Russian state and Russian society, and this fact can be easily used against Russia, especially taking into consideration the growing worldwide negative attitude to Russian state because of its position war in Syria.

This unjust decision of the court does not allow Russian Muslims to sit quietly. That is why this week the Chairman of the Center for Legal Support in Saratov city, Ravil Tugushev, appealed against the decision of the District Court of Novorossiysk.

In his appeal, Tugushev listed the points on which the court's decision on the Qur'an is considered unlawful. He referred to the articles of the Russian Constitution, which guarantee freedom of conscience and freedom of religion and the right to freely choose, possess, and disseminate religious and other beliefs and to act in accordance with them.

"The above decision sets a precedent act, and creates in fact the possibility of banning in the future other translations of the Qur'an, as well as banning the Qur'an in Arabic… and even banning Islam in the Russian Federation as well as the Qur'an which is the basis of the religion of Islam," Tugushev wrote in his appeal.

Related Links:
Young Russian Muslims Discover Religion
Dagestani Muslims: From Confrontation to Peace
Islam in the Volga Region
Time to Burn Islamic Books

Dr. Ruslan Kurbanov, PhD in Political Science, is a member of the International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS), a senior research fellow of the Institute for Oriental Studies of Russian Academy of Sciences, and the director of Al-Tair Foundation.

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