Guardian: While Geert Wilders and assorted online provocateurs may like to talk about banning the Qur’an as an extremist text, few take the idea seriously. Except in Russia, perhaps, where on 20 September, a court in the Russian city of Novorossiysk banned a translation of the holy book of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims.
To be fair, it is one of several available in the country. This version, the work of an Azeri theologian named Elmir Kuliyev, was declared illegal for promoting extremism through “statements about the superiority of Muslims over non-Muslims”; “negative evaluation of persons who have nothing to do with the Muslim religion“; “positive evaluation of hostile actions by Muslims against non-Muslims”, and also, it was argued, inciting violence.
Unsurprisingly, the ruling – which automatically places Kuliyev’s Qur’an on a nationwide blacklist – outraged many Russian Muslims. Russia’s influential Council of Muftis denounced the verdict, and Kuliyev has one month to appeal. The ban is baffling, as the Russian authorities have little to gain by antagonising 15% of the population, including huge chunks of the republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, never mind the restive republics of the Caucasus. Could it just be a case of an incompetent court gone rogue? Perhaps, but another major Muslim organisation has endorsed the verdict. Geraldine Fagan, an expert on religion in Russia, reports that “a representative of the All-Russian Muftiate – a rival to the Council of Muftis – defended the ruling against Kuliyev’s translation of the Qur’an … From a theological point of view, Farid Salman maintained, Kuliyev’s works ‘correspond with the views of the “Salafi” school, not with [the] Islam that is traditional for Muslims of Russia’.”