Moscow Muslim leaders want Charlie Hebdo banned in Russia


Brawl breaks out in Moscow mosque because of caricatures of the Prophet

by Grigory Tumanov, Pavel Korobov, Ivan Buranov

Kommersant, 15 January 2015


The first case of a radical protest of Muslims on the wave of discontent over the publications in the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo has been recorded in Moscow. Yesterday during evening prayer in the Cathedral Mosque, about ten radicals tried to break through to the microphone in order to urge believers to make their way to the French embassy as a sign of protest against the publications of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. After they were rebuffed, they retreated outside, where they beat up one of the parishioners and fled. The Council of Muftis of Russia called the attackers provocateurs and prepared a statement for the police.


Rushan Abbiasov, vice-chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia (SMR), described for Kommersant the incident in the Moscow Cathedral Mosque on Vypolzov Lane. He said that during prayer, a group of people, including migrants from Central Asia numbering 10-15 persons, burst into the mosque. They tried to make their way to the microphone in order to urge parishioners to go to protest at the French embassy.  Their indignation was evoked by caricatures in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose editorial office was shot up by Islamists in Paris. We recall that a series of terrorist acts began in France on 7 January, when a group of radicals burst into the building of the editorial office of the magazine and killed 12 persons there, including its police security. After this the terrorists seized hostages in the north of the country and were killed during an assault. The total number of their victims came to 17.


"Our parishioner Takhir Yakupov barred the way of these people along with other believers and security personnel of the mosque," Mr. Abbiasov explained. After prayer, Mr. Yakupov left the mosque, where the radicals met him and beat him. He is now in the hospital, and employees of the Council of Muftis of Russia have removed and intend to deliver to law enforcement agencies tapes from the video surveillance cameras and a statement is also being prepared with the request to open a criminal case. At the same time, Kommersant was told at the Meshchanskii Department of Internal Affairs, on whose territory the mosque is located, that they have no information about the incident.


This is the first recorded case in Moscow of a radical display of discontent with the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Earlier a group of believers organized on the Internet a flash mob during which anyone who wished could post a video on the subject "Who is a prophet for us," explaining that they consider caricatures to be insulting, but do not support the murder of the journalists.


"We have urged, and we will urge our fellow believers not to give in to provocations. Any protest activities must have a civil character and not an extremist one," the SMR vice-chairman said. Mr. Abbiasov said that he and colleagues are preparing a statement for the prosecutor's office with the request to prohibit the distribution of French caricatures on the territory of Russia.


One of the parishioners of the Cathedral Mosque said that this is not the first time radicals have tried to provoke believers. "Sometimes radicals come into our mosque and try to preach something and urge us to do something, but everybody reacts appropriately and drives them away," he explained to Kommersant. "This seems to be either a deliberate provocation or a reaction by radicals, who are stirred up by statements of politicians, including Russians," Ali Charinskii, a Muslim rights activist, suggests. Mr. Charinskii noted that on 12 January, unidentified persons scribbled crosses and obscene inscriptions on the mosque on Poklonnaya Hill: "I have the feeling that someone is trying to arouse conflict in the capital." He thinks that provocations may be repeated on Friday also, when the largest number of Muslims traditionally gather in the city's mosques for prayer. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 January 2015)


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