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 RUSSIA: Dagestan's controls on Islamic literature

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Fréédóm Fightér



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PostSubject: RUSSIA: Dagestan's controls on Islamic literature   Thu May 27, 2010 1:23 pm

RUSSIA: Dagestan's controls on Islamic literature


Russia's North Caucasus republic of Dagestan does not formally ban
particular items of Islamic literature, but it grants the Spiritual
Directorate of Muslims of Dagestan exclusive vetting powers over what is
circulated, Forum 18 News Service has found. The restrictions are not
always enforced. In practice, Islamic literature which does not display
an endorsement from the Directorate is regarded with suspicion. There
are limited opportunities to buy or sell such literature, as all mosques
and prominent Islamic bookshops come under Directorate control. For
Dagestan's many practising Muslims, easy access to information on Islam
is thus limited to a relatively narrow range of viewpoints. Possession
of "unapproved" books may mean the authorities identify their owner as a
"Wahhabi extremist". Directorate bookshops carry many pamphlets
condemning so-called Wahhabism in a way similar to Orthodox
anti-sectarian brochures, with titles such as "Caution, Wahhabism!" and
"Confessions of An English Spy". Only Arabic texts of the Koran are on
sale. This starkly contrasts with the stock of a small independent
Islamic bookshop visited by Forum 18.
While Dagestan's government does not formally ban particular items of
Islamic literature, it grants the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of
Dagestan exclusive vetting powers over what is circulated, Forum 18 News
Service has found. "It's clearer to them if someone calls for violence
or not," Rasul Gadzhiyev, departmental head of Dagestan's Ministry for
Nationality Policy, Information and External Affairs, explained in the
capital Makhachkala on 22 April.
Dagestan's 1998 Religion Law requires that all Islamic literature be
endorsed by the Directorate (Article 21). A separate law adopted in 1999
specifically targets Wahhabism – defined only as an "extremist trend".
In Dagestan Forum 18 found that Salafis - advocates of what they regard
as a pure form of Islam as practised by the earliest Muslims - are
informally referred to as Wahhabis regardless of whether they reject
violence (see F18News 5 May 2010 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1440).
Restrictions on Islamic literature represent a major element in the
near monopoly on Muslim public life enjoyed by the Directorate (see
F18News 25 May 2010 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1449).
The restrictions are not always enforced. In practice, they mean that
Islamic literature which does not display an endorsement from the
Directorate is regarded with suspicion. There are limited opportunities
to buy or sell such literature, as all mosques and prominent Islamic
bookshops come under Directorate control. For Dagestan's many practising
Muslims, easy access to information on Islam is thus limited to a
relatively narrow range of viewpoints. Moreover, possession of
"unapproved" books may mean the authorities identify their owner as a
"Wahhabi extremist".
Dagestan - a republic in Russia's troubled North Caucasus which
borders Azerbaijan and Georgia - is highly ethnically diverse. Most of
the population is of Muslim background, the majority of them Sunnis but
with a Shia minority.
Approved and unapproved
Some Islamic literature opposed by Directorate clerics – such as
Russian translations of the Koran – could not be formally banned as
extremist anyway, Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev (no relation to Rasul), Islamic
affairs correspondent with Dagestan's popular independent
Russian-language newspaper Chernovik, told Forum 18 on 15 April. "But it
doesn't stop them [the Directorate] saying you're not allowed to read
it or going round town telling Muslim bookshops to remove this or that
literature," he remarked.
Dated 1 June 2006, a list of Islamic books containing "canonical
mistakes" and therefore "not approved by the Expert Council of the
Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Dagestan" was posted on a
Russian-language internet forum in September 2008. It contains 173
titles, including many legally published in Moscow and Kazan (Tatarstan
Republic), such as the renowned Russian translation of the Koran by
Elmir Kuliyev and works by Shamil Alyautdinov, imam of the memorial
mosque in Moscow's Victory Park (...)
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