Russian parliament gets bill to increase monitoring of unregistered religious groups


Stricter approach to preachers sought in Bashkiria

by Ekaterina Grobman

Kommersant, 4 December 2016


Deputies of the state assembly of Bashkiria and a deputy of the State Duma from United Russia, Ramzil Ishsarin, want to require leaders of religious groups to inform the Ministry of Justice about the continuation of their activity and they want to introduce fines for failure to do so. Mr. Ishsarin told Kommersant that a draft law will help to expose groups that are conducting "preaching activity of an aggressive, extremist nature." The sphere of religious relations "cannot be literally regulated," an expert says.


Deputies of the Kurultai [Council] of Bashkiria and a deputy from the region, Ramzil Ishsarin, propose to alter the law "On freedom of conscience." It is proposed to require the leadership of a religious group to submit to an "authorized agency" every three years information about its work. Already now, according to law, a representative of a group, at the start of its activity, must list in the corresponding application information about the foundations of the religious confession; places of conducting worship services and other religious rituals and ceremonies; leadership; and the citizens who are members of the religious group, with an indication of their surnames, personal names, patronymics and places of residence.


The authors of the draft law cite data of the Council on State-Confessional Relations under the leader of Bashkiria to the effect that in the republic there are 492 religious groups of a variety of confessional affiliations active, but in the regional directorate of the Ministry of Justice information has been received from only 169 of them. In the course of studying the adherents, the authors of the draft law write, there were in the groups instances "of illegal personal enrichment, spreading of religious intolerance, and use of psychological techniques for altering consciousness."


For failure to notify an authorized agency it is proposed to establish for the leader of such a group a fine of from 1,000 to 2,500 rubles and for the centralized religious organization of which the group is a member, a fine of from 20,000 to 30,000 rubles. The draft law has been introduced into the State Duma.


Deputy Ramzil Ishsarin explained for Kommersant that, in the first place, the authors of the amendments are aiming at identifying groups that are preaching nontraditional Islam. "Such groups are being created in villages in the regions and they declare their houses of worship to be mosques and they conduct preaching activity of an aggressive, extremist nature," the deputy says. The law does not require indicating in the notification all parishioners who have contact with the group, Mr. Ishsarin assures; information is required only about organizers of the group. "In our republic this sphere is always under supervision; in municipalities there are commissions on religious organizations," the United Russia deputy says. "When we say that it is necessary to record more clearly, we are prescribing a measure of responsibility. To the extent possible, municipalities will admonish, but if a group does not respond the issue will be transferred into the purview of law enforcement agencies."


The head of the department of ethnology of the Institute for Humanities Research of the Academy of Sciences of Bashkortostan, Yuldash Yusupov, thinks that the draft law may violate the principle of freedom of conscience. "Religious relations are a sphere of public relations. It cannot be literally regulated. There are many religious groups, and not only in Bashkiria, but even within one centralized muftiate there can arise a small territorial movement which will be different and supervision of each religious movement simply does not work out in practice," the expert thinks. Only a court can define a group as extremist and therefore it remains unclear how the draft law will facilitate cutting off their activity, he said. (tr. by PDS, posted 6 December 2016)

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