‘Love to Prophet Mohammed’: Crowds protest Charlie Hebdo cartoons in Chechnya
About 1 million people, residents of Chechnya and other Russian Caucasus republics, gathered for the rally, the Interior Ministry press service said. Orthodox priests, mostly from the neighboring republics, have also arrived for the demonstration.
Thousands of balloons were sent into the air at the beginning of the rally.
The protesters were carrying banners, saying “We love Prophet Mohammed,” “No to Mohammed cartoons,” “Islam is a religion of peace and creation.”
Participants at the rally said Muslims should not respond to provocations. “Violence is not the method,” one of their slogans said.
The crowd gathered near the "The Heart of Chechnya," one of the biggest mosques in Russia.
The head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, told the crowd that Islam was a region of peace and Russian Muslims won’t let use them to destabilize the situation in the country.
“We are announcing to the whole world that Muslims won’t let use them to destabilize the situation in the country. We have always been reliable protectors of Russia. And now [we] are capable of giving a fitting rebuff to any enemy of our Homeland.”
Фото опубликовано «Газета.Ru» (@gazetaru) Янв 19, 2015 at 4:31 PST
According to Chechen leader, Islam teaches people “to live in peace and harmony with all the nations of our country, with people of various religious beliefs.”
Europe hasn’t drawn any conclusions from the recent events in Paris which left 17 people dead, Kadyrov said.
“We see that European journalists and politicians under false slogans about freedom of speech and democracy declared the freedom of boorishness, and uncivilly insult religious feelings. About what freedom of speech are they [speaking] in Paris and other Western capitals?”
The head of Russia’s Mufti Council, Ravil Gaynutdin, said that Western countries are abandoning family and spiritual values.
“We should value our spiritual and moral values, and family traditions. We should build our spiritual country: great Russia,” Gaynutdin said, Tass news agency reported.
митинг "против карикатур на Пророка", Грозный. pic.twitter.com/aeCeHnxrLs
— Jüri Maloverjan (@MaloverjanBBC) January 19, 2015
The rally ended with a mass prayer.
The 'Love for Prophet Muhammad' rally was called by the republic’s clerics.
Earlier, Kadyrov called on Chechens to join him at the protest.
— Кама Ахматов (@AhmatovKama) January 19, 2015
Grozny is not the first Russian city to protest against the publication of Mohammed cartoons.
More than 10,000 people rallied in Magas, the capital of the Russian southern republic of Ingushetia, to support Islam and protest cartoons insulting the Prophet. The demonstrators decried both the extremists aiming to hijack it for their own goals and the people deliberately insulting Muslims and their faith under a guise of protecting freedom of speech from the extremists.
Charlie Hebdo's post-attack edition, featuring the Prophet Mohammed shedding a tear while holding a "Je Suis Charlie" sign, was published on Wednesday. The newspaper initially expected 1 million copies to be sold, but now the issue is aiming at a target of 7 million copies, a far cry from its usual 60,000 circulation.
The issue immediately sparked outrage from Muslims and Islamist groups. Last week, rallies were held in many countries, including Algeria, Syria, India, Pakistan and the Philippines.
Niger, a former French colony, saw the most violent demonstrations. Five people were killed and 128 were wounded over the weekend in Niamey, the capital of Niger, police said. In total 45 churches, a Christian school and orphanage were torched, and five hotels and 36 liquor stores were destroyed.