Mufti Ashirov apologizes to the Orthodox for his statements about Basic Orthodox Culture

Moscow, Russia - The co-chairman of the Council of Muftis in Russia Nafigullah Ashirov regretted the conflict situation, which had arisen around his critical remarks about Basic Orthodox Culture, and supported introduction the subject into the Russian school curriculum.

‘I sincerely regret my unwillingly offending the Orthodox community, which happened because my viewpoint on the teaching Basic Orthodox Culture as a part of obligatory curriculum were not interpreted correctly enough. I present my deep apologies,’ Ashirov’s statement given to Interfax on Thursday said.

In his interview given to Interfax on Tuesday, Ashirov described the teaching of Basic Orthodox Culture in a Russian school in Cuba as ‘a manifestation of creeping Christianization’ and called the Russian Church as ‘a narrow ethnic confession’, accusing it of the ‘shameless lobbying’ of its own interests. He also challenged the parents’ right to choose what subjects their children would study and said that the parents might suddenly decide the schoolchildren should learn Mein Kampf.

This and some other Ashirov’s sayings produced a strict response from the Orthodox community, representatives of which demanded his apologies and noted that statements like that could have made a ground for a suit.

However earlier this day, after publicizing his statement of apologies, Ashirov said in his interview to Interfax that his commentaries, which angered the Orthodox, applied ‘exclusively to incidents of obligatory teaching of Basic Orthodox Culture at some Russian schools.’

‘The Council of Muftis is not against optional teaching of Basic Orthodox Culture,’ he said.

‘Optional teaching of Basic Orthodox Culture or any other subject is totally justified and does not violate the right for free access to religious information,’ Ashirov added.

However ‘excessive lobbying’ of obligatory teaching of Basic Orthodox Culture in Russian schools, ‘in which children of Tatars and of ethnic groups of other faiths form a considerable proportion regardless of particular region,’ may contribute to ‘raising of tension among the schoolchildren and undesirable arguing about superiority of one or another religion,’ he noted.

‘Obligation to study a particular religious conception contradicts the children’s right to learn the religion they consider to be uniquely right and true,’ the mufti said.

‘The freedom of belief is guarantied by the Russian constitution, which is our nation’s basic law,’ he added.

Ashirov also recalled some sayings of Russian Education and Science Minister Alexander Fursenko and some other politicians and public figures on the issue.