Religious row over Muslim lifestyle book ban

A new law on extremism in Russia has come under fire after the banning of a book about the Islamic way of life. ‘The Personality of a Muslim’ was banned by a court in the Orenburg region after it was decided the book risked inciting religious hatred. A tr

But a number of scholars say the book teaches good behaviour and are critical of the court’s decision. Russian State Duma Deputy Semen Bagdasarov, who has long studied Islamic extremism, doesn’t see any grounds for the ban.

“I believe it’s a good book,” he said. “It teaches Muslims tolerance towards other religions, in particular towards Jews and Christians. It’s more propaganda against extremism.”

Ezhayev, the Director of the Ummah publishing house who now faces three years in jail, said: “Provincial courts are using their regional experts in such cases. They cannot be called proper experts. Most of them are philologists or linguists.”

He added that prosecutors have no proper grounds for a trial. He said: “I do not understand the logic of it. The book was published in January. The banned list was published almost a year later and I immediately removed it from sale.  I simply asked them to prove my guilt first.”

According to Russian law, the book cannot be quoted, although it is easy to find it on the internet.

The ban triggered protests from the head of the Russian Council of Mufti. Nevertheless, some people in the Muslim community agree with the decision.

According to mufti Sibagatulla Khadzhi “this book doesn't foster good, but harm to our faith and to the society we live in”.

He says it's written “for a society with one race and one religion. We live in a multinational, multireligious country. Such books stir trouble between religious communities. In my view those who publish such books are perusing unfriendly goals towards Russia.”

But it is not the contents of the book but the case itself that is drawing attention. It comes soon after a controversial law on extremism was adopted by the State Duma.

The law defines extremist activities. However, even its supporters say it needs amendments.

Expert on Islam Semen Bagdasarov said: “Such a law has long been needed, as we witnessed a wave of terrorism in Russia. The question is who defines what is ‘extremism’ and what's not. Unfortunately, today we do not have an efficient and competent system of expertise. And so there is a good law, but so far its implementation has been bad.”