Legal and linguistic issues of publications in the media on religious and ethnic topics
Nowadays, in any multi-confessional and multi-ethnic state where religious groups co-exist with several traditional religions, in order to preserve peace and the normal development of the national economy it is very important to establish harmonious inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations. In such a context, in addition to measures the state undertakes in order to develop inter-religious and inter-ethnic relations, a special emphasis is given to the content of ethnic and religious information that is disseminated through the media such as traditional press, internet websites and social networks. A secular state, while it needs to respect the religious beliefs of its citizens, also needs to preserve the internal integrity of its society, peace among its citizenry, and ensure the security of the government.
“What is a secular state? What are the basic tenets of secularism?” Mukan Isahan, a theologian at the Nur-Mubarak University, explains: “The term “secularism” means that the state takes a democratic stance toward religion and that the freedom of religion is guaranteed.” There are live links between the state and religion that are based on secular and spiritual values. One of the most important features of a secular state is when it ensures peaceful co-existence of citizens that hold different religious beliefs and views. In other words, a secular state provides a legal basis for a wide variety of relations in the spiritual sphere” (https://kazislam.kz/zajyrly-memleket-degenimiz-ne-zajyrl/).
The following study shows that the principle set out in clause 1 of Article 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan (“The Republic of Kazakhstan proclaims itself as a secular, open, law-respecting state”) is implemented in practice: “In 2015 Islam’s share accounted for 69.2% of religious associations in the country; Orthodox Christian were at 9.2%; Pentecostals at 6.1%, Baptists at 5.1%, Catholics at 2.4%; Jehovah Witnesses at 1.7%; Presbyterians at 2.8%; Seventh Day Adventists at 1.2%; New Apostle Church at 0.7%; Lutherans at 0.4%; Methodists at 0.4; Hare Krishna at 0.3%; Baha’is at 0.2%; Judaists at 0.2%; Mennonites at 0.1%, Buddhists at 0.06%; Mormons at 0.06%; and Moonies at 0.03%. As an example, the data on the number of religious associations: in the Czech Republic - 11 religious associations; in Romania – 18; in Slovakia – 11; in Turkmenistan - 123, in Kazakhstan – 18 denominations and 3,514 religious associations (as of January 2015)” (Meiramgul Ibadullakyzy Issayeva. An analysis of religious associations in Kazakhstan: https://eurasian-research.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/ERI-WP-05.pdf).
From the above data on the number of religious associations in Kazakhstan one can see that the conditions of registration of religious associations in this country are more permissive than in other countries: “Registration of religious associations in different countries is carried out to different requirements. In the countries of the West, special attention is given to the number of members in an association, while in our country the requirement is that the number of members in an association should be 0.1% of the total population. The requirements to the number of members in a religious association in order for it to be registered differ from country to country: 10,000 in Czech Republic (0.1%), 22,000 in Romania (0.1%); 300 in Austria, 100 in Hungary, 50 in Russia, and 50 in Kazakhstan.”
According to the above data, “18 denominations and 3,514 religious associations (as of January 2015)” co-existing in Kazakhstan leads to a variety of positive and negative opinions and views on those confessions, and their discussion in the social networks, websites and other mass media. The discussions and publications of religious issues in the mass media, in turn, are analysed by legal experts and other competent bodies in terms of their compliance to the interests of the state and society and with the law, and the authors of such publications are held responsible under Article 174 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (“Incitement of social, national, tribal, racial, class or religious discord”). A good example of this is a video recording titled “Полат ұстаз 1.mp4” which has been posted on YouTube. In determining if such video and audio recordings may contain the elements of an illegally activity, the competent bodies in addition to a religious review also need a linguistic analysis.
In the context of a multi-confessional society, the above-mentioned materials with religious topics illegally published in the mass media are subject to an interpretation as prescribed by the law:
Under article 1 of the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On the Fight against Extremism,” incitement of social, national, tribal, racial, class or religious discord constitutes a type of extremist activity (inciting social, class discord... (political extremism); inciting racial, national and tribal discord... (national extremism); inciting religious discord... (religious extremism).
Article 1 of the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On the Fight against Extremism” provides the definitions of extremist acts and extremist materials:
- 5) extremist acts – acts committed expressly with extremist purposes, including public calls for such acts, propaganda, agitation and public display of symbols of extremist organizations;
- 7) extremist materials - any informational materials that contain the elements and/or calls for extremist acts or substantiate or justify the need for such acts;
The definitions of the above terms contain verbal acts that carry criminal liability under Article 174 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan. This includes the following informational materials:
1) materials that call for aggressive, violent acts against citizens based on their social, national, tribal, racial, class or religious affiliation;
2) materials that substantiate or justify the need for a hostile or hateful attitude towards citizens based on their social, national, tribal, racial, class or religious affiliation;
3) materials that substantiate or justify the need for aggressive, violent acts against citizens based on their social, national, tribal, racial, class or religious affiliation. http://adilet.zan.kz/kaz/docs/K1400000226
Therefore, the contents of the video posted on YouTube under the title “Полат ұстаз 1.mp4” fall within the meaning of Article 1 of the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On the Fight against Extremism" and Article 174 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (“Incitement of social, national, tribal, racial, class or religious discord”) based on the meaning of the phrase “incitement of religious discord.”
The general content of the video titled “Полат ұстаз 1.mp4” which has been posted on YouTube was based on the information “Regarding the ban of the Salafi organization in connection with the events in Aktobe, and on the assessment of acts and instructions of its followers in this respect.”
The video indirectly mentions a religious movement with a statement “the Salafis have nothing to do with the massacre and bombings. Khariji and takfiri—who are they?” Based on an analysis of the semantic connection between sentences put in a context, it was established that the words of the author, “those who blow up, those who kill, are the khariji, takfiri” – had been generalized to indicate that those acts (explosions, murders) were not the work of the Salafis. That conclusion stemmed from the fact that the video did not contain specific information about the act of khariji and takfiri. This shows that there was no direct intent to discredit the khariji and takfiri.
The author does not have information that would specify that the acts and behaviour of the khariji and takfiri or their representatives are always negative, and contradict the rules of morality. There is also no mention of the need to show hatred, disapproval, intolerance to all khariji, takfiri or their representatives.
A study found that the following statements made in the video regarding the various fate outcomes were based on certain sources, namely verses of the Koran, and were not the author’s direct quotes: it is a new year, and according to some people it is 31st of December, i.e. end of a year, so they you spend this day will influence the following year in its entirety… chief imam of Ust-Kamenogorsk says, there is a fir tree, people eat and drink. What he says, is that Jesus is our Prophet, and that the new year is his Mawlid (birthday). And what you think is there, that’s a disbelief in The Koran. In the Surah al-Maida, Allah says: “O believers! Do not take them as supporters (and friends), since Jews take Jews as their supporters, and Christians take Christians as theirs. And if any of you (o believers) take them as friends, they themselves will be considered one of them.” It is one thing to drink vodka, and another to commit adultery. Fate is not decided on the new year. This will take place on the odd days of the last ten days of Ramadan. The night of predestination (Laylat al-Qadr) is more valuable than a thousand months. The Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) commanded us to spend the night of al-Qadr awake, in worship, in istighfar, in repentance, in The Koran, in invocation and prayer.
In this post, the author compares two views on the outcome of the year:
|From the point of view of some modern people on the end of the year and how it is marked:||Information on the end of the year according to The Koran and its surah’s, and how it is marked:|
|1) 31 December – end of one year, how you spend it will have an impact on the entire following year||1) End of the year is the odd days of the last ten days of Ramadan|
|2) Fir tree, people eat and drink||2) More valuable than a thousand months|
|3) Jesus is our Prophet, new year is his birthday||3) Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) commanded to spend the night of Laylat al-Qadr (the night of predestination) in worship, prayer, istighfar, repentance, reading The Koran, invocation and prayers|
|4) It is one thing to drink vodka, and another to commit adultery|
The author describes the first situation related to the end of the year as “a disbelief in Allah” (lack of faith in Allah): Kufr means disbelief, non-recognition of Islam or deviation from its norms. Kufr encompasses serious misdeeds and crimes: polytheism, refusal to pray, witchcraft, adultery, suicide, drunkenness, gambling, etc. Kufr is also committed when a scholar ('alim), while guided by his authority leads the believers away from the true path [Islam: Encyclopaedic Dictionary. - M.: Main Editorial Office of Oriental Literature, 1991, 146]. The author refers to the ayats of The Koran and other sources whereunder the Jews did not want to recognize Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him): “The general religious concept of The Koran places (illegible) the Ahl Al-Kitab (People of the Book) in an intermediate position between believers and non-believers” [Islam: Encyclopaedic Dictionary. - M.: Main Editorial Office of Oriental Literature, 1991, 146]. As for Jews, he cites an ayat from the Koran: “Do not take them as friends. Jews take Jews as supporters. He who is friends with them becomes one of them,” and says: It is one thing to drink vodka, and another to commit adultery.
The expression “do not take as friends” means do not count (them/him) as a friend or acquaintance. For instance, disrespect is lack of respect, disregard; dissatisfaction - displeasure; not to intend - not to consider as an objective, etc. In other words, within a certain context this means “belief in a new year’s miracle, food, drink, adultery - disbelief in Allah (non-recognition of Him), and one should be like the Jews who do not believe in Allah.” In other words, in this context the author does not call the Jews alcoholics or adulterers directly and simply implies that these negative traits are characteristic of “non-believers in God” and points at the Prophet’s commandment on the “non-believers.” In this passage, an ayat from Surah Al-Maida is given as an example: “Do not take the Jews as friends, the Jews take each other as supporters, and the one who is friends with them is one of them” [The Holy Koran, translation by Khalifa Altai, p. 117].
He examines customs and traditions of celebrating the New Year according to the tenets of the Koran, compares them with each other and formulates (drinking, consideration the end of the year, adultery) as non-belief (disobedience of Allah). The transcript provided for the review does not contain any negative, adverse or threatening information that would imply hatred toward certain persons, Jews or their representatives, or the need to treat them with hostility. A semantic analysis of the above phrase “do not take them as friends” demonstrates that in the context under consideration there were no calls for aggressive, violent acts against the Jews, or any other people, based on their religious affiliation.
The audio contains historical information about the Mongols with a reference to the author of the book “A Historical Baghdad.” First of all, this information was used by the author of the video as a reference to help explain to the audience the meaning of “fitnah,” or “how important is it to be afraid of a test?” In the passage from a description of the Mongolian invasion, the author tells the audience that the “fear of the Baghdad residents was ungrounded. And then he tries to explain that “fitnah” means the state of unreasonable fear of being tested, worry and, as it follows from the text, such vain anxiety and fear should not be the reason for abandoning their prayers, stopping visiting their mosques, or shaving their beards.”
The ethnonym “Mongol” was used to mean the state—in particular, in the context of the Mongol Empire; equating to this word means making a connection between the name of the state and that of its people. The role of this Mongolian ethnonym in the controversial video can be compared to the role of the phrase “A Mongol invasion” which is used in textbooks and research to signify a historical event.
In conclusion, a linguistic analysis demonstrates that the author of the video material analysed the current situation by reference to the concepts drawn from the Koran surah’s and historical sources. The video does not call for enticing a hostile, antagonistic attitude in the listeners/viewers toward a religious association or any particular ethnos; it does not try to justify physical acts against them; and it does not contain the substantiations or justifications of acts aimed at restricting the rights and freedoms of such associations which is a form of discord based on a negative assessment of their personal traits.