Researcher of sects alexander dvorkin continues to read
lectures about islam. His works were carefully studied by experts.
Leading specialists on Islamic studies, religious studies and extremism issues carefully studied lecture of Alexander Dvorkin about history of Islam that caused severe critics by Muslim leaders.
The lecture about history of Islam which was given by leader of anti-sect movement in Russia Alexander Dvorkin is still fresh in memory. The lecture took place on 5 February 2013 in the Northern Arctic Federal University (Arkhangelsk city, Russia) under the title “Origins of Islam. Not-told stories” (length is 1h 25min).
From one side, this incident means nothing and nearly had no influence on Muslim’s standing, but from long-term prospect means much. The most important is the fact that the lecture was given by the person who has no proper education in this area and who is well known as persecutor of non-orthodox religious organizations.
At the beginning of the lecture Dvorkin was introduced to the audience as “doctor of philosophy”. The same way he was introduced in the announcement posted on the official web-site of the University day before the lecture. In fact, Dvorkin is not doctor of philosophy, nevertheless, he never puts right those who wrongly introduces him, therefore this information gets spread through different web-sites and creates impression that Dvorkin really has academic title.
The lecture already got severe responses from Muslim religious leaders and have drawn international response. However, it is important to make expert assessment of the first Dvorkin’s lecture about Islam so his education level on this subject can be properly evaluated and his future speeches on the subject of Islam can be interpreted in the right manner.
Was this lecture unbiased? Is it this lecture really aimed at opening of discussion and attracts interest to the subject of Islam? Does this lecture correspond to the expert, scientific or, at least, academic level?
Assessment by specialist in Islamic studies
Script of the lecture was studied by Ayday Khayrutdinov – specialist in Islamic studies, chief scientific specialist of Institute of History by the name of Sh. Mardzhani of Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan Republic.
In his expert review mr. Khayrutdinov notes following important peculiarity of the lecture:
“Considering all the importance of studying history in general and history of Islam in particular, author failed to avoid prejudices in his estimate of various historical events mentioned in the lecture.”
“For example, on the page 25 author used expression ‘…married third time for her cute salesclerk’; on the page 26 author says ‘… together with knot of followers he… ’. Words ‘cute’, ‘knot’ reflect personal attitude of author in describing people and reducing objectivity level of the work. In whole, such expressions and derisive tone used by author in description of history of Islam and some of its historical individuals creates impression of high prejudice level of author. In the light of this, the lecture has almost nothing close to the scientific-educational event. It creates impression that author’s target is not to enlighten audience about one or another matter of Islam, but implant own biased ideas about described events.”
Among other things, the expert conclusion put attention to certain factual mistakes made by Dvorkin during interpretation of number of historical events.
At length Mr. Khayrutdinov educes:
“So lecture provided for the expert review does not meet requirements of quality, reliability and objectivity of scientific research. It gives to the listeners pronounced personal biased attitude of author on the given subject. The lecture may develop misrepresented false conception of audience about beginning period of Islamic history and about followers of this religious movement.” (See full text of the review)
Above are just several quotes from the expert review that deserves reading in full.
Indeed, the lecture aimed to demonstrate history of Islam, Koran and Prophet Mohammed from negative view. This is the only impression the lecture gives. Anyone may receive evidence by his own by listening the lecture in full. Lecture does not make someone to think critically, does not show interest to Islam, does not provide stable basis of knowledge about history of Islam. Simple test demonstrated that people who previously knew nothing about history of Islam, after listening to this lecture arrived at the conclusion that Islam is “false” religion based on lots of historical facts juggling.
Assessment by religious scholar
Comment on the lecture of Dvorkin was given by Igor Yablokov – prominent Russian religious scholar, doctor of philosophical sciences, professor and head of Department of philosophy of religion and religious study at Moscow State University.
Mr. Yablokov noted general level of the lecture:
“This is not a lecture at all. This is some talk on some subject. Just free talk with use of free expressions. Just talk that does not deserves attention from scientific viewpoint. There are free expressions that might hurt somebody. It does not represent any scientific interest and does not deserve attention.”
On the question whether Dvorkin uses correct form of delivering the material, scholar replayed:
“You see, what the matter is. I am professor of Department of religion studies of Moscow University for all that. Of cause we do not permit ourselves to do lectures this way. We hold academic lectures.”
“Research activity, reading lectures require at least university-academic level. This lecture does not demonstrate this.”
Curious coincidence took place while this article was written. On 17 May 2013 while in Novokuznetsk city Dvorkin was answered to the journalist and on the question whether there are objective experts, Alexander Dvorkin replied:
“Any person has his own beliefs and this is normal and natural. Any person sees everything through the prism of his own beliefs. When person talks everybody who listen to him should do ‘wind drift correction’. A person openly informs that I am… well, let’s say, any person who read what I write or listen what I say, knows I am orthodox and thus he can take this into account in his estimate of what I say. Problems starts when person says ‘I have totally objective viewpoint’ and that in general ‘religious scholar should not follow any beliefs and so on as in this case he will be absolutely objectiv. This is lie.”
On the subject of the above statement Mr. Yablokov answered the question whether the opinion of Dvorkin could be treated as expert conclusion considering his orthodox belief:
“On a matter of religious expertise, per my opinion, it should be done by non-confessional researcher or expert to avoid conflict of interests through the objective and careful study of a situation.”
“There is a principle of learning and research of social processes and according to this any researcher and expert was forming in a certain social environment thus inherits certain values. It relates to any researcher and expert. But as it was well noted by Max Weber at his time – truth is the main value for a science. Focusing on this value is the motive power for a science progress.”
What do you think, should listener do ‘wind drift correction’ or should he defer on objectivity and honesty of an expert? Could person with ‘wind drift correction’ stay in the Religious Expert Council under the Ministry of Justice of Russian Federation?
On the question if Mr. Yablokov consider the lecture about Islam as part of anti-sect (anti-cultist) activity of Dvorkin he answered:
“You know, I have skeptical attitude to these anti-cult movements or anti-cultism. This is my personal opinion and I can be wrong. I think these kinds of movements should not be created. However it seems these movements exists… in US and Germany, and it seems that in Russia some of initiatives exist as well. But I do not think these should be created. I think this subject requires quiet expert work.”
(Big thank to Alexander Stepanov for providing transcript of this interview.)
Assessment by expert of Center of Study of Extremism Problems
The lecture was studied by Gumer Isaev – candidate of historical sciences, associate professor of St. Petersburg Humanitarian University, he is also an expert of the Center of Study of Extremism Problems under the University and is head of St. Petersburg Center of Study of Modern Middle East.
In his expert review Mr. Isaev particularly noted character and purpose of the lecture:
“Misrepresentation of biography of Mohammed, attempt to deny existence of Mecca, statements that Koran was seriously changed since releases – all these indicate that purpose of the lecture is to convince listeners that Islam is false doctrine. In this respect views of Dvorkin expressed in the lecture can be characterized as moderate islamophobia demonstrated not in evident insult expressions against Muslims, but in outward appearance of politically correct attempt to disprove basic doctrines of Islam. Such format has right to exist in secular society, but harm and danger for interfaith dialogue and relations between religious confessions in Russia of such kind of discussions has to be taken into account.”
By studying the lecture on the subject of purposeful insult of Muslims and inflaming interreligious hatred, expert arrived at the following conclusion:
“Formally Dvorkin can’t be accused in inflaming interreligious strife as well as he cannot be accused in intentional insulting religious feels. Rather we are talking about imposition of certain viewpoint to listeners that in essence it boils down to the fabrications of main stages of Islamic history. Such expressions can be considered as unpleasant for Muslims and hurting interfaith dialogue, but does not fall under any article of the Criminal Code.”
In addition to the general research of the lecture there were number of questions given for Mr. Isaev based on Federal Law “About Counter-Acting Extremism Activities”. Particularly the Law considers the following as extremism:
– the propaganda of the exclusiveness, superiority or deficiency of individuals on the basis of their attitude to religion, social, racial, national, religious or linguistic identity;
Here is the answer of expert on the question “Whether the lecture contains expression and linguistic constructions which might provoke hostile or adverse attitude against people practicing Islam?”:
“Yes, this lecture contains expressions and linguistic constructions which provoking hostile attitude against people practicing Islam. This is revealed in neglectful characteristics of Prophet Mohammed who plays key role in Islam doctrine. Moreover, text of the lecture contains examples of negative stereotyping – ascription of negative characteristics to certain national and religious groups (Arabs and Muslims).”
(Read full expert review of Mr. Isaev).
Based on the above the following conclusion can be done. While the lecture does not contain particular calls or straight outrage against Muslims, it includes expressions that could develop hostile attitude to Muslims and seriously derogate their image in the eyes of listeners.
Importance of this subject
It is worth to write about importance of careful study of anti-Islamic lecture of Alexander Dvorkin and indicate the reason of potential far-reaching consequences of the lecture.
Since 1993 Dvorkin is involved into sect-fighting activity. Number of religions experienced results of his works during this time period. At the beginning, Dvorkin’s lectures against any religious organization were more or less restrained; later he used more sharp statements up to encouragement of injunction of religious organization. Now he openly speaks for prohibition of religious organizations by law and supports idea of including religious literature into the Federal List of Extremism Materials. His “Islamic début” looks uneasily considering recent cases of including number of Islamic books into this List and gives an idea that such events coincidence is non-random.
Similarly it can be noted that first statements of Dvorkin about history of Islam were rather harmless (see example of his statement in 2003). While now he holds lecture in quite severe manner. Recently it became known that in spite of high critic of his lecture by Muslim leaders, on 16 May 2013 Dvorkin held new lecture about history of Islam in the frame of his anti-sect tour to Kuznetsk Basin (Novokuznetsk city).
There are chances that the lecture of Dvorkin against Islam could be used as an example by his representatives in other regions. Russian Association of Center of Study of Religions and Sects founded by Dvorkin in 2006 unite sect fighters from Russian regions and CIS countries. These fighters use works of Dvorkin as basis of their activities. In this context most notable of them is anti-cultist Julia Denisenko who represents the Association in Kazakhstan – country where Islam is dominating religion.
By his speech Dvorkin places under threat existence of Islam in range of European counties because he is part of executive body of FECRIS – European Federation of Centers of Research and Information on Sectarianism that unites centers from 18 countries. Web-site “Islam in France” wrote about this alarming sign for European Muslims. Previously, FECRIS spoke against rather small religious movement only, but this lecture of Dvorkin represents first speech of FECRIS’s executive against Islam and should be seriously considered.
In addition to the above, Dvorkin is a chairman of Religious Expert Council under the Ministry of Justice of Russian Federation and his speeches are associated by most of his listeners with position close to official one. In fact this position is intentionally underlined – it was written on the sign with the title of Dvorkin during the 16 May press-conference on the subject of sect that took place in the hall of Orthodox Spiritual Seminary of Novokuznetsk. Right after this conference he held his lecture about history of Islam as stated by the official web-site of the Seminary.
Decision to include Alexander Dvorkin into the Council under Ministry of Justice has being hardly criticized since 2009. Obviously, there are forces that continue to keep him in the Council despite the evident qualification incompatibilities.
Considering the type of Dvorkin’s activity and his attitude, taking into account the stereotype formed about him, his lectures hardly can be considered as objective and can’t be interpreted as authority source of information. On the contrary, such lectures more likely create increasing level of tension in the interfaith sphere.
Lecture about history of Islam held by Alexander Dvorkin is not competent and may create negative biased attitude to Islam religion and Muslims.
Level of Dvorkin can’t be considered as expert due to his biased confessional position.
Alexander Dvorkin should stop reading lectures about history of Islam and should withdraw from Religious Expert Council under Ministry of Justice as this position itself is being exploited in the interests of his antireligious activity.
Author: Konstantin Nikitin
related post :
A case study : FECRIS
 It was impossible to find this lecture in open sources. As stated by representative of the Information-Apologetic Center under Kuznetsk Basin Metropolitanate this lecture was not recorded at all. This looks strange considering fact that all other lectures of Dvorkin during his trip to Novokuznetsk were shoot on video and posted in the Internet.
 The lecture about history of Islam in Novokuznetsk city held by Dvorkin on the eve of annual FECRIS conference that took place in Copenhagen on 31-31 May 2013.