Wednesday, 8 April 2009



“- People need an explanation of religion. I do not say that it's necessary to make all children pray. They will start praying when they realize religion. But they are obliged to know about religion - about Islam, about Christianity. If a person knows about religion, no matter whoever has approached him, it will not misdirect him.”

So said the new Russian Patriarch head of the Coordinating Center of the Muslims of the North Caucasus Ismail Berdiyev speaking on the issue of interreligious dialogue in that area and the problem of what he calls “extremist literature”. He expresses particular concern about Wahabism an extreme form of Sunni Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia although there is general concern about both Muslim and Christian sects and cults moving into the area.

Foreign missionaries are being monitored and:

“The regional Council on religion recommended regional executive board and local municipal authorities, public associations and religious organizations to intensify preventive work on opposing religious extremism and ethnic intolerance.”

I imagine organisations like Reachout Trust would applaud such efforts – except:

“The main task of the council is to check all the Muslim books that people own and they must tell if a book of any publishing house, by any author must be destroyed as extremist and another book can be useless because it is frankly illiterate. By the way, nearly all the Wahabi literature divides into extremist and illiterate. Though one doesn't exclude another. And if authoritative people, theologians and scientists will say about it people will think weather to read this or that book.”

Book burning? Now that’s a bit – extreme. The point is well made that people who don’t understand religion can fall prey to all sorts of wacky ideas but – book burning? I know Whabism is extreme but I can’t help thinking where book burning in early 1930’s Germany ended.

We tend to take the education and enlightenment route, equipping people to be discerning and informed;  anyway if we were to burn every book that promoted heresy, error and lies we would have one big bonfire and global warming times ten! I suppose those cult members who complain about what we say should be glad they don’t live in the Caucuses. We just tell people that the Mormons are wrong, the Jehovah’s Witnesses in error and explain carefully why. We don’t feel inclined to burn anything – or anyone.