800,000 people attended a rally in the Russian region of Chechnya to condemn the Mohammed cartoons published in France’s Charlie Hebdo magazine. President Ramzan Kadyrov attended, delivering an anti-West, pro-Islamic speech.
“This is a protest against those who support the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad,” he said at the rally held in the capital of Grozny. “This is a protest against those who insult the Muslim religion.”
People chanted “Allahu Akbar!” as the Kremlin leader spoke on stage. Russia’s Interior Ministry claimed over 800,000 people attended, which is over 50% of the population. There are 1.25 million people in Chechnya, and the majority are Muslim.
“If needed, we are ready to die to stop anyone who thinks that you can irresponsibly defile the name of the prophet,” he cried. “You and I see how European journalists and politicians under false slogans about free speech and democracy proclaim the freedom to be vulgar, rude and insult the religious feelings of hundreds of millions of believers.”
The Kremlin did not officially criticize Charlie Hebdo, but did broadcast the rally on state television. Reuters suggested Moscow “may see the protest as a way to vent pressure from Russia’s Muslims after a similar rally was banned in Moscow.” The Kremlin banned all Russian media publications from publishing cartoons of Mohammed. The country’s watchdog group said that if anyone publishes the cartoons, it “could be qualified as ‘inciting ethnic and religious hatred’ and punished under anti-extremism laws.”