A Russian lawmaker proposes a ban on expressions such as ‘Islamic terrorist’ and ‘Islamist militant’ in the mass media, claiming they give people the wrong impression about Islam and put ordinary believers at risk.
Shamsail Saraliyev (United Russia) stepped up with this initiative at this week’s session of the State Duma Committee for Information Policy, Izvestia daily reported on Wednesday. According to the newspaper, other Russian MPs supported the idea.
Saraliyev is from Chechnya and before taking a parliamentary seat he was the minister of external relations, ethnic policy and information in the predominantly-Muslim internal Russian republic. Presently he is a member of the State Duma committee for Foreign Policy.
The MP said in an interview with Izvestia that lately the mass media are freely and frequently using expressions like ‘Islamic terrorists’, ‘Islamists’, ‘Jihadists’, ‘Shahid belt’, ‘Terrorist Islamic State’ and many others of this kind.
“These expressions push people towards the conclusion that Muslim religion and terrorism are the same thing. Common people automatically begin to associate Muslims with bandits, murderers and terrorists,” Saraliyev said.
At the same time, the majority of Muslims prefer to distance themselves from radical groups, preferring to call them ‘Kharijites’ – Arabic for ‘dissenters’ or ‘insurgents’, the lawmaker noted.
One typical example of such people are the supporters of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), he said.
“They call themselves the Islamic State, but they have absolutely nothing to do with Islam! For them Islam is just a cloak with which they cover their evil deeds!”
Saraliyev reiterated the thesis that traditional Islam is a kindness and creation that promotes peaceful coexistence between all peoples. The reports about Muslim religion calling for aggression and extremism is a either a mistake or a baseless lie, he added.
“Just as we don’t call fascists ‘Christians’, we should stop using the term Muslims when we describe radical militant groups who claim to be followers of Islam.”
In 2012, Saraliyev was among the sponsors of the bill that called for a ban on the mass media mentioning the ethnicity of criminals or suspects in news reports. Though not yet passed into law, the bill prompted several media outlets to adopt this rule on a voluntary basis. Saraliyev called such self-regulation an example of how the ban on drawing a connection between Islam and terrorism could work in the future.
There are about 20 million Muslims among Russia’s 140-million-strong population. Islam is considered one of four ‘traditional religions’ in the country, along with Orthodox Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism.
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