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How the Russian government uses anti-extremism laws to fight opponents

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Extract of most interesting part:

             "In 2017, Russia’s Supreme Court banned Jehovah’s Witnesses as an extremist organization and prohibited its activities in the country, affecting about 100,000 of its worshippers and violating their religious rights. The decision came as no surprise, as regional branches of this organization had been persecuted for alleged extremism for years.

               In September 2009, in its ruling regarding the alleged extremism of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Rostov regional court repeatedly referred to the organization’s “statements that demean human dignity based on attitude toward religion” and “elements of propaganda about the exclusivity of one religion over another,” which, in the court’s opinion, “indicated the presence of signs of inciting religious hatred.” This is just one example of the way the anti-extremism legislation’s vagueness is used to target an organization viewed as undesirable by the Russian authorities. According to human rights activists, the key reason for the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses is so the siloviki can improve their crime-solving rates—an easy score at the expense of the religion’s members.

             But what is the reasoning behind these inconcrete formulations? Say that, referring to the religious practice of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the court found extremism in their beliefs that true Christians do not worship icons and crosses and do not celebrate Christmas. But what is extremist about it? A Muslim could say that Christianity is a false religion and that it is wrong to worship icons and crosses and to celebrate Christmas. Does this mean practicing Islam should be recognized as extremist? Viewing your faith as true and others’ as false is normal for believers, but it is ridiculous for the government to recognize differences in religious practices as extremist.

            The court also pointed out that religious scriptures of Jehovah’s Witnesses contained negative attitudes toward various elements of traditional Christianity. Again, a negative attitude toward other forms of Christianity does not in itself constitute extremism. Following this logic, any atheist or agnostic should also be recognized as an extremist. Additionally, the Russian law on freedom of conscience and religious association establishes “a special role of the Orthodox Church in the history of Russia,” thus recognizing its supremacy over other religions. Isn’t that a demonstration of a negative attitude toward the latter?

            Another example is the same 2009 Rostov region court’s misuse of anti-extremism when it identified extremism and calls for civil disobedience in Jehovah’s Witnesses’ assertion that “Jesus did not allow the substitution of God’s law with human traditions.” The court also accepted as evidence of extremism alleged victims’ testimonies stating that the organization’s publications and their manner of distribution offended the religious beliefs of Orthodox Christians. The court attributed the different faiths of the spouses involved in the case, and the ensuing impact on their family relations, to the extremism expounded by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The husband’s (the alleged victim’s) complaints, considered by the court in all seriousness, included the fact that his wife spent time preaching faith to the neighbors instead of cooking, cleaning, and ironing.

          Based on this evidence, the court recognized the Taganrog branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses and 34 pieces of religious literature as extremist in 2009. In 2017, based on similar decisions in several regions of Russia, the Supreme Court declared the whole Jehovah’s Witnesses organization an extremist one and banned it.

How are Jehovah’s Witnesses doing now? Belonging to an extremist organization is severely punished in Russia, carrying a penalty of two to six years in prison. Russia’s Criminal Code regards Jehovah’s Witnesses’ preaching—an integral part of their religious practice—as “persuading, recruiting or otherwise involving a person in the activities of an extremist organization” (a separate crime), which could result in four to eight years in prison. Following the Supreme Court’s 2017 decision to ban the organization, about 500 of its members were accused of extremist activities simply for belonging to it. More than 250 are currently in jail."


Eph. 3:20 “Now to the one who can, according to his power that is operating in us, do more than superabundantly beyond all the things we ask or conceive”

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Navalny backers see cautionary tale in Russian raids on Jehovah’s Witnesses

Analysis: members of religious group declared extremist in 2017 have faced arrests, surveillance and prison



Eph. 3:20 “Now to the one who can, according to his power that is operating in us, do more than superabundantly beyond all the things we ask or conceive”

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