In recent days the theme of Islam has resounded louder then ever. The scandal that has burst out around the Mohammed cartoons published in a Danish newspaper, that is to say, the harsh response it has provoked in the Moslem world, has shown the solidarity of the faithful and their readiness to defend what is sacred for them. In addition, the parliamentary elections in Palestine brought victory to the radicals of Hamas who have declared their intention to build the Palestinian legislation on Sharia. All these developments point to the socio-political potential of Islam and command a close watch for their outcome.
Talgat Tajuddin, Supreme Mufti of the Central Moslem Board in Russia, gives his assessment to these two events and shares his vision of an optimal solution to the problem of teaching religion in school in an interview to Interfax-Religions.
- What do you think of the reaction of the Islamic world to the publication of the Prophet Mohammed cartoons? Harsh protests have been triggered in Moslem countries, such as burning the Danish flag, boycotting Danish goods and issuing threats to Danish oversea representations.
- It is a superfluous reaction, of course. They published what they published; it is their own view and they have the right to it. But it is wrong to threaten a whole state. Indignation could be expressed through an embassy.
- But are you still pleased to see a solidary Moslem reaction to offensive cartoons?
- People’ efforts to defend their ideology, their faith, are welcome, but protests should not take extreme forms. One should be civilized in a civilized society. If a response is that of hatred and malice, the reaction to it will also be hatred and malice, but a believer should never go that far.
- Do you agree with experts who believe the Hamas victory in the Middle East will stir Islamic radicals to greater activity?
- I do not share these fears. On the contrary, acquiring legitimacy now, Hamas will have to observe the rules existing in the international community and will take part in the processes towards normalization in relations between Palestine and Israel which took place before.
- Do you think the Christians living in Palestinian territories should fear for the introduction of Sharia some Hamas representatives suggested?
- Palestine is a Moslem country. Sharia does exist there, it does not have to be introduced, it has to be only implemented. At the same time, Christians, who have their own laws, should not come under Sharia, of course.
- The teaching of Basic Orthodox Culture in school was discussed comprehensively at the Christmas Readings held in Moscow these days. What is your position on this long-debated issue?
- So far we have advocated the introduction of the history of our country’s traditional confessions as one discipline.
- But it is no secret that the Basics of Islam has been taught in the Moslem regions of our country for a long time already.
- Moslems, just as Orthodox Christians, have the right to teach the basics of their religion to their children. If Moslems gather and organize a private kindergarten at any place, they have the right to teach Islam, just as the Orthodox and other believers. Who can deprive them of this right?
But if it is a public school or a kindergarten with children from families of various religions and children of atheists, they cannot be forced to study such disciplines. An optional study is another matter. It is the only thing we have been insisting on for the last fifteen years, namely, that the teaching of religious disciplines should be carried out on a voluntary basis.
In other words, the study of the basics of world religions should be compulsory, while that of a particular religion, whatever religion one may wish to study, individual.