Moscow Prosecutor Sees South Park as “Extremist”

From Interfax:

The Moscow Prosecutor’s Office has ruled that the 2×2 cartoon channel airs extremist cartoons.

“On the basis of the federal law on countering extremism a district prosecutor’s office has forwarded a paper to the Basmanny Court in Moscow asking to recognize a South Park episode as extremist,” a spokesman of the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office told Interfax on Monday.

The ruling follows complaints from The Russian Union of Evangelical Christians, as reported by Novosti:

The group’s leader, Konstantin Bendas, urged the prosecutors to ban the popular animated comedy series on the grounds that it contains “covert and overt propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia as norms of sexual life.”

He added that some 20 experts in law and psychology had been involved in studying the issue.

“We have received some 15 reports by experts and they all agree that broadcasting the cartoon has a negative impact on viewers, especially on children and teenagers,” he said.

“Extremism” is often used in Russia to ban materials. Kommersant reported in December:

The latest, third, list of banned extremist publications (periodicals, book and films) was issued on Saturday by the Federal Registration Service (Rosregistratsia). With 61 entries, the new list is twice as large as the previous one. The first version of the list was compiled in July of this year and contained 14 titles. All of the publications are of a fascist, ultranationalist or ultrareligious nature.

…Although the list contains Russian nationalist publications, such as the newspaper Divizia (Military Division) in Russkoe Prikamye and Za Rus (For Russia) in Novorossiisk, 13 publications are by the same author: Said Nursi. “Said Nursi preached the most tolerant form of Islam,”said Nafigula Ashirov, cochairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia. A scholarly council from the Al-Azkhar University in Cairo, the Turkish Ministry of Muslim Affairs and the European Council for Fatwa Research have also come to the author’s defense…Possession or distribution of extremist material is punishable by up to five years in prison in Russia.

 
The International Federation for Human Rights adds:

In addition to the anti-terrorist legislation, there is now a law to fight extremism aimed at cracking down on acts that incite racial, religious and political hatred , as well as membership in an organization qualified as extremist. The nebulous definitions given for extremism and terrorism, have made it possible for intolerable excesses and abuses in the eyes of civil society, namely the creation of a climate of intimidation that targets individuals, NGOs, groups, societies, and associations for example the Sakharov Centre case. The same lack of clarity has made it possible for certain cases, namely those involving Muslims, to be tried for extremism rather than anti-terrorism, making them easier to bring to trial. Moreover, the list of outlawed publications is getting longer everyday and now includes, without explanation or clarification, any works titled “The Founding Principles of Islam”. The State clearly uses anti-extremism legislation as a mechanism for social and political control that is detrimental to freedom of expression and freedom of belief.

The “Sakharov Centre” case involves a art display called Forbidden Art-2006, which was regarded by Orthodox Christians as blasphemous; the director was charged with “inciting religious hatred” (a strategy also currently being used in the UK).

Forum 18 notes another case of an Islamic book being banned:

…Under the Extremism Law, anyone carrying out mass distribution, preparation or storage with the aim of mass distribution of the texts risks a four-year prison term. Handed a list of the titles and asked if any support terrorism, leading Islam specialist Aleksei Malashenko told Forum 18: “If you say this, then every book, including the Bible, may be called pro-terrorist. The problem is not the books, but one of commentary – how they are used.” Forum 18 has read one of the banned publications, Muhammad Ali al-Hashimi’s “The Personality of a Muslim”. The book’s sole emphasis is on kindness and generosity, including towards non-Muslims – but a criminal case has now been opened against the head of Moscow Islamic University’s publishing department for distributing it.

As for the Nursi book, Forum 18 tells us that

The ban relies solely upon analysis of the work by psychologists and linguists of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Russia’s Ombudsman for Human Rights, Vladimir Lukin, and a wide range of Russia’s Muslim leaders and scholars has condemned the ban.

I’ve noted before that Russian psychologists have been co-opted by nationalist agendas.

Bendas’ opposition to South Park is of a part with his distaste for Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“We are convinced that the time has come to reexamine the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We are against those human rights that lead to the corruption of society and contradict moral bases,” said Konstantin Bendas, business manager of the Russian Union of Christian Evangelicals.

However, it should be remembered that evangelical Christianity is viewed generally with hosility by the Russian Orthodox Church, which now enjoys close links with the state; such denunciations are doubtless designed to allay concerns about patriotism.