Russian court strikes down Bhagavad Gita ban

As Dmitry Medvedev prepares to head to India next week to visit his Soviet era trade partner and fellow BRICS countries, a Russian court dismissed an appeal to ban a translated edition of the Bhagavad Gita after protests erupted outside the Russian consulate in Calcutta.

A top court in Tomsk's Siberian province upheld a ruling from late 2011 by a lower district court, and perhaps considered Indian parliamentarians who protested last year and won.

State prosecutors in Tomsk contended that the book includes remarks that are "hostile to other faiths," and wrote off the Russian translation of one of Albert Einstein's go-to religious texts as book that belongs on the same reading list as Hitler's Mein Kampf for its "social discord."

Following the decision, Alexander Shakhov, a lawyer for a Hare Krishna society in Tomsk, told Interfax, "I believe this is an absolutely fair, logical and most important of all - a law-abiding decision."

Reuters reported that Russia's foreign ministry said that the complaint was not against the Bhagavad Gita itself, which was translated into Russian in 1984, but "a translation with a preface written in 1968 by a founder of the movement A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada."

Regardless, the Hindu holy text could have become a mainstay on Russia's expansive list of banned literature, which now includes more than 1,000 titles including L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology collections, which were reconfirmed as illegal on Wednesday after a regional court upheld a lower court's ruling from 2010.

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Israel's soccer hooligans riot

Soccer hooliganism in Israel took on a particularly violent tone on Monday when, after a game in Teddy Kollek Stadium, hundreds of Beitar Jerusalem supporters assaulted cleaning personnel in nearby Malha Mall. According to Haaretz, it "was said to be one of Jerusalem's biggest-ever ethnic clashes." Mohammed Yusuf, a team leader for Or-Orly cleaning services, described it as "a mass lynching attempt." Witnesses also stated that "mostly teenage supporters flooded into the shopping center, hurling racial abuse at Arab workers and customers and chanting anti-Arab slogans, and filled the food hall on the second floor," and that the "attackers also asked Jewish shop owners for knives and sticks to serve as weapons but none consented."

Eventually, the mall's security director deployed a group of guards "in an attempt to restore order, but they were outnumbered." He called the police, who evacuated the mall at about 10:30 pm, but they made no arrests because "no complaint was filed," even though there is CCTV footage of the brawl.

Yellow- and black-clad Beitar fans are notorious for their hatred toward Arabs. They frequently chant "Death to Arabs" during matches, and last year fans recorded themselves teaching racist chants to their children. The suspect in a recent price tag attack claimed that "he vandalized the school to avenge the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team's loss to two Arab teams two weeks ago." The team, which used to be sponsored by Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party, has been described as "magnet for right-wing extremists" and criticized for not hiring Arab players.  

FP looked at the history of sports-related political violence last summer.