Russia is not Charlie

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Once buried the victims of Paris attacks, the idea that Charlie Hebdo is guilty of provocation began to take root in the most conservative circles. The World Russian People Council has called for a moratorium on publication of caricatures offending religious feelings, while the media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, has urged newspapers to refrain from publishing caricatures of religious figures. Meanwhile Chechnya prepares to a massive demonstration against cartoons insulting the Prophet.

 Photo: AP/Markus Schreiber

When they realized that Charlie Hebdo had not targeted only Muslims but often desecrate the symbols of the Christian (as well as Jewish) religion too, in conservative circles over the world have begun to tick those who “are not Charlie”. The idea that religion is and must be a limit to the freedom of the press seems to have taken root particularly well in Russia. The Kamchatka regional office of the Roskomnadzor, the Russian media watchdog, sent a letter to some newspapers asking not to publish Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons. According to a source quoted by the Moscow Times, the Roskomnadzor said that “The media’s publication of any caricatures of religious figures is inadmissible. We encourage domestic media outlets to choose other forms of expressing solidarity with their French colleagues who were tragically killed, rather than fueling sectarian tensions in Russian society”. The body also reminded editors that the publication could violate the laws against extremist activities that are considered a crime in Russia, and lead to the closure of the newspaper.

The Russian declaration of human rights
The World Council of the Russian people, Vrns, made soon its voice heard. In a statement published by Interfax, the Vrns called “on journalists across the world to impose a moratorium on the publication of caricatures offending the religious feelings of Muslims, Christians and adepts of other faiths. We would like remind that in Russia publicly offending the feelings of the devout and desecrating items of religious worship, signs and emblems symbolizing worldview, is illegal and must be prosecuted. No freedom of speech can justify the blasphemy.”
The Vrns is a body, set up in 1993, made by representatives of the government, institutions, culture and science, and which enjoys the status of a consultative member of the United Nations. A closer look, however, reveals it is an organization with a strong religious character. Indeed, it is headed by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill, and has its headquarters in the Danilov Monastery, the holy see of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Council published in 205 the Russian Declaration of Human Rights, a heap of conservative visions imbued with religious dogma. According to the Declaration, “in a world threatened by civilizations clashes […] religion is called upon to define good from evil.” In this, “man, as an image of God […] bears the eternal moral law, laid into human nature by the Creator”, therefore ” the support of human rights cannot be separated from morality […], but there are values which are no less important than human rights, such as faith, the sanctity of holy objects and one’s homeland.”

Millions of people
The idea that is gaining ground is across-the-board, and unites seculars and religious conservatives, of every faith. The Chechen authorities have stated on their official website that “hundreds of thousands of people will protest in Grozny against the publication in Western newspapers insulting the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).” Although the initiative has been taken by religious leaders, the event was endorsed by the Chechen government. President Kadyrov days before wrote on Instagram that “we will bring millions of people to march in protest around the world if they continue to insult the Prophet. In Russia, some paper tried to publish those cartoons. Do you want this?”
Kadyrov has condemned the killing of the Charlie Hebdo satirists, but then wrote that “we are ready to forgive even those who kill our loved ones, but we will not allow anyone to insult the Prophet, even if it will cost us lives”



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