Radical Islam is already a household term, but how about some radical Christianity for a change? In Georgia every now and then, radical Christians and radical liberals come to blows -- both literally and figuratively.
Tbilisi saw another of those slugfests on May 4 during a rally staged to protest an earlier rally that had condemned the rector of Ilia Chavchavadze University, a perceived epicenter of Georgian liberalism, for "anti-Orthodox activities and the deliberate perverting of youth."
The demonstration was topped off by the presentation of a new book that mocks the Georgian Orthodox Church. The title of the book, "Saidumlo Siroba," is a profane send-up of the Georgian term for the Last Supper. (It translates literally as "Secret Hogwash," but is closer to "Holy Crap.")
Needless to say, the book got a mixed review in heavily Orthodox Christian Georgia. The Organization of Orthodox Christian Parents, self-styled defenders of Georgian Orthodox traditions known for once chasing away witches and demons from a Tbilisi Halloween party, descended upon the gathering.
The Georgian Orthodox Church has not endorsed the violence, but Georgia’s loosely organized liberals say that in this case silence denotes consent.
The scuffles are symptomatic of challenges faced by Georgia as it tries to reconcile its reverence for the Church, part and parcel of the country's national identity, with the dose of cosmopolitan liberalism that democracy and international openness bring.
Police broke up the hot heads this time, but both sides say that the war is not over. Another protest is scheduled for Friday.