Some 15,000 Muslims have held a rally in Russia’s Caucasus region of Ingushetia to denounce printing of sacrilegious cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad by Western media.
On Saturday, the crowd assembled in the regional capital Magas to protest “against cartoons of the Prophet, Islamaphobia and insulting the beliefs of Muslims,” according to the local government’s press service.
In a statement addressed to the demonstrators, regional head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov condemned the publication of satirical sketches of the Prophet as “state extremism on the side of several Western countries.”
“Instead of decisively condemning these destructive steps, the political authorities in the West are trying to set people of different religions and nationalities against each other,” he added.
The comments came a day after Russia’s media and communications ombudsman Roskomnadzor warned that printing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad could amount to “inciting ethnic and religious hatred” and punished under anti-extremism laws.
On January 14, French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose Paris office was attacked by gunmen on January 7, once again published a cartoon of the Prophet on the cover of its new edition despite warnings that the move is provocative.
Many newspapers and magazines across the globe reprinted the blasphemous cartoons of Charlie Hebdo.
Russia extended its condolences to France over the assault on Charlie Hebdo which killed 12 people. However, commentators and Muslims accused the French magazine of sparking the attack.
French President Francois Hollande on Saturday defended the move, saying that that France has “principles, values, notably freedom of expression” after protests against Charlie Hebdo in Niger and Pakistan.
The satirical weekly has on numerous occasions published cartoons insulting Islam and Muslims, tagging them as “freedom of speech.”