Expert polls conducting

April 8, 2011

Only civil society is able to oppose religious fundamentalism

After the American Protestant pastor, Terry Jones has burnt the Quran, Afghan Taliban killed several tens of Christians, among which the workers of the United Nations humanitarian mission in Afghanistan, and disturbances still continue. Who is guilty in what has happened – the American pastor or the Taliban? What do the similar conflicts mean? Institute of Human Rights and Prevention of Extremism and Xenophobia (IHRPEX) has gathered the expert judgments.  

Andrii YURASH, religious scholar, associate professor of Lviv National University: “There are two concepts of state policy with respect to religious communities. According to the liberal one, state interferes only in case, when other methods of influence are invalid or may not be applied. This is the American model. The other one is the European model, it provides that state favours maximal harmonization of human relations, including confessional coexistence. If two communities are not able to build their relations, state shall interfere and prevent conflicts, which may happen between them. I think that the function of state must include assistance to personality or religious community to teach them to coexist with other confessions. Fundamentalism is available in all confessions, including Islam and Christianity. And frequently it is the answer of religious communities to liberal model of state. But this is the inadequate answer, this is the answer of a weak person. The fundamental sign of religious fundamentalism is the hostility and inability to see God's creation in the representative of other confession. But it is the denial of their own religious principles. The actions of both the evangelistic pastor and the Taliban are the religious fundamentalism.” 

Viacheslav BOGUSLAIEV, deputy head of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on the national security and defence: “I think that this is the provocation, which must not be carried out in public. If you have one or another views, which made you to burn the Quran, you may do this at home. Otherwise it is the challenge. And state shall be always ready to such challenges. This does not mean that it is necessary to take force measures against those who express their opinion, but it also shall not be allowed to be done in public. The society must condemn these actions and this person, who burnt the Quran yesterday, and who may burn the Talmud or the Bible tomorrow. No one is allowed to do this, because the similar actions may evoke response of not tolerant people, but of religious fanatics. It is necessary to take into account that people, which are ready to express the religious extremism, live among us today, and walk on streets together with us. The similar displays of intolerance, explosion of monuments and other provocations were also in Ukraine. State must explain what is allowed to do and what is not, it must cultivate civil liability for the deeds”. 

Oleksandr PALII, political scientist, historian: “This is the demonstration of barbarism from all sides. The religious feeling have the right to survive. It is necessary to understand that state is not able to forbid a citizen to carry out such actions in his own area. But state must restrict behavior of such actions in public places. It would be the optimal reaction if the society shows that this was not the position of all society, but the position of separate persons. Sosiety shall demonstrate, that it does not slide into this barbarism, and that it respect as religious feelings, as human rights. The American mass media should be more active in this direction. As for the Taliban, their reaction is far from the civilized one. Even if their response was directed on the initiator of the Quran’s burning, this actions would still be qualified as the extremist ones.

As far back as medieval Europe, it was considered that the God did not need such sharp forms of defence, and was able to protect himself. Moreover for none of religions it is acceptable to kill a person, the God’s creature, for strengthening of own religious feelings. In this case, both parties are not right: both the representative of the American world, which is developed a lot in the meaning of civilization, but still admits such displays, and his radical Afghan opponents”.                                                        

Anatolii BARONIN, director of the analytic group “Da Vinci AG”: “The similar displays of undisguised disrespect to religious feelings of Muslims provoke mass protests in the Islamic world. The first such test was the publishing of caricatures in the Scandinavian mass media, which resulted in mass protest of Islam followers. After that incident any similar displays had the predictable consequences. The publicity of such action of the American pastor, and the earlier announcement of the action, I think, provides reason to look at the protest action from the point of view of conscious provocation of the conflict. Provocation of the extremism in the Central Asia and Middle East shall again allow using of Islamic radicalism for political purposes, including from the point of view of transformation processes in states of North Africa and the redivision of areas of influence, connected with them.

The transformation processes, which involved North Africa and Middle East, indeed, create the time lag for choice of further course of the countries of this region. The new prospects place society between two ways of development: forming of specific “Islamic democracy” on the principles of secular state or return to the fundamentalism and strict theocratic society. The impulse for the decision may be any external stimulus, as, for example, Terry Jones. Despite the necessity to save and support the authentic religious currents, the question of strict suppression of undisguised provocations and public acts of disrespect to representatives of other religions is beyond any doubt.”