Ramzan Kadirov, the powerful boss of the Russian republic of Chechnya delivered a stinging rebuke to French President Emmanuel Macron. He called Macron an instigator of terrorism and essentially portrayed the murderer of the French teacher Samuel Paty as the victim, who was roused to action by insults to the Prophet Muhammed. Kadirov's words resonated with Russia's 25 million Muslims.
Aside from criticism of Kadirov for encroaching on the foreign policy preserve of Russia's president, Russian officials did not criticize Kadirov in substance. They pointed out that in Russia a magazine such as Charlie Hebdo that printed cartoons of Muhammad could not exist in Russia under Russian legislation.
Liberal presenter Kseniya Sobchak posted a rebuttal to Kadirov and praise for Macron and was vilified and targeted with threatening text messages.
A report on the affair follows below:
Macron and Kadirov (Source: Gazeta.ru)
On October 27, 2020, Ramzan Kadirov, the President of Chechnya and Putin's enforcer in the restive region, waded in to the controversy surrounding the French Magazine Charlie Hebdo. French President Emmanuel Macron had upheld the magazine's right to publish the cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad as freedom of speech, although Muslims considered the publication a sacrilege. Macron had taken this position after the beheading of the French teacher Samuel Paty. Kadirov responded on his Telegram channel in a post that has been read by more than 134,000 readers:
"The French authorities support the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. This was stated by President Emmanuel Macron. He calls actions offensive to nearly two billion Muslims of the world 'freedom of speech.' Moreover, Macron decided that he would change their religion and create an 'enlightened Islam' in France.
"I do not know what state Macron was in when he made this statement, but the consequences of such a reaction can be very tragic. The French president himself is now beginning to resemble a terrorist. Supporting provocations, he subtly urges Muslims to commit crimes.
"Macron cannot fail to know that the cartoons of the Prophet are painfully interpreted by believers. And by his actions, on the contrary, he fans the fire, rather than extinguishing it, as any adequate leader should have done.
"Never in history has such a policy ended well. But the President of France needs such upheavals specifically related to the Muslim world.
"Under the guise of a desire to restore order, he elaborates some new laws, talks about the need to control mosques and religious organizations. But in fact, the entire problem consists of himself [Macron]. Until he and the leaders of other European countries begin to respect such concepts as 'RELIGION', 'CULTURE', 'MORALITY', [caps original] there will be no decent future and order in their states. A humiliating attitude towards religion, mockery of it - they consider all this to be the observance of freedom of speech, but at the same time they themselves encroach on the values of other people.
"The Prophet Muhammad is a model for all the world's Muslims. We are all, nearly two billion people, followers of his sunnah. And this, among other things, unites us. The most important thing in a Muslim's life is religion. No one has the right to treat it in a derisory fashion. Muslims will not forgive this.
"Macron, before it's too late, cease provocations and attacks on faith. Otherwise, you will go down in history as a president who made outrageous decisions. Your absurd position on the publication of cartoons is condemned today not only by Muslims around the world, but also by any sober-minded representatives of other confessions.
"You don't even have the courage to admit that ridicule and parodies of faith were the reason for the tragic fate of a teacher in the suburbs of Paris. He tirelessly pursued this result, defiantly provoking students, regardless of their indignation and requests to stop the display of offensive drawings. As a result, you elevate him to the rank of a hero of France, and the person whom he provoked is made a terrorist.
"Well, Macron, if you call him a terrorist, then in that case, you are a hundred times worse, because you force people to terrorism, push people towards it, leave no choice, create all the conditions for nurturing extremist ideas in the minds of young people. You can safely call yourself the leader and inspirer of terrorism in your country.
"Hiding this entire time behind false words about the loftiest human values, you by your behavior and actions are forcing people to commit crimes. And if you do not want to understand simple truths, then be prepared for the fact that Muslims around the world will not allow the name of the great Prophet Muhammad to be insulted. You cannot even doubt it!"
Peskov's Slap On The Wrist And Kadirov's Defiant 'Contrition'
The next day, Russia's presidential secretary Dmitry Peskov called Kadirov on the carpet. He however did not focus on the substance of Kadirov's post but for involving himself in foreign policy, the exclusive domain of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Peskov noted that the heads of regions are not involved in foreign policy and on these issues, it is necessary to be guided by the line of the head of state [Putin}.
Kadirov bowed to this slap on the wrist. "The press secretary of the President of Russia Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the heads of states [within the Russian Federation] are not involved in foreign policy in Russia, but only the head of state. So, according to media reports, he commented on my words about Emmanuel Macron.
"I agree with Dmitry Sergeyevich [Peskov] and know perfectly well that the heads of entities do not formulate foreign policy. I know perfectly well who regulates external and internal relations in the country, and I don't need anyone to explain anything to me on this topic.
"But one must also consider the fact that I expressed my opinion to the French authorities as a Muslim, and not as a politician. I could even more agree with Dmitry Peskov, if, evaluating my words, he took note of this point. In this case, his answer would have been more objective.
"Now, and again as a Muslim, I repeat my earlier words about Macron and am ready to do it a thousand more times. This is my right as a person who completely loves his religion and strictly observes all the prescriptions of the Holy Quran and Sunnah. For this position, if necessary, I am ready to leave the post, suffer or give my life! But I can't and I'm not going to silently watch the atheists trash religion."
Peskov appeared satisfied with this apology and even sought to mollify Russia's Muslims by noting that the issue would have never arisen in Russia since a magazine similar to Charlie Hebdo could not exist in Russia. "Russia is partly a Muslim country too. Up to 25 million Muslims live in Russia. And in Russia, where Christianity is the fundamental religion - we have the largest number of Christians - but the uniqueness of our country lies in its multi-confessional nature. All denominations live in full respect for each other. Therefore, the existence of such a magazine is impossible, including taking into account of current legislation," Peskov said.
Explanations For Official Reluctance To Criticize Kadirov
The Russian leadership's position on the issue can be explained by the need to propitiate the country's Muslims. Kadirov's post did not appear in a vacuum. The Mufti of Chechnya Salakh-Khadzhi Mezhiev accused Macron of starting "a foredoomed march against Islam," which could result in new human casualties. The Mufti's statement, published on the Instagram account of the Spiritual Directorate of Chechnya's Muslims stated further.
"French President Emmanuel Macron ordered that cartoons of the greatest of people - the Prophet Muhammad ... be hung on all government buildings in the country... This is not just an irresponsible act that goes beyond all moral and ethical boundaries, but a well-planned attack on Islam and the entire Muslim community, capable of turning into new human victims ".
Khabib Nurmagomedov wrote an irate Instagram post about French President Emmanuel Macron:
"May the Almighty disfigure the face of this creature and all its followers, who, under the slogan of freedom of speech, offend the feelings of more than one and a half billion Muslim believers. May the Almighty humiliate them in this life, and in the next. Allah is quick in repayment, you all will see it."
Nurmaamedov's post. Note the number of likes.
Another consideration was that the Russian Orthodox Church, an important part of Putin's support base supported the position of the Muslims as it too opposed publications mocking religion. Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk (Grigory Alfeev), chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations told the Russia 24 TV channel that France would be wise to emulate Russia in this respect:
"Would not be better to introduce such a law in France that exists in our country, the law on insulting the feelings of believers, and to take care not that the cartoonists have the right to continue their work, thereby provoking radical and aggressive people, but to defend the feelings of believers through the law on the inadmissibility of blasphemy and sacrilege? "
A third consideration was that the main protagonists on this issue were now Macron and Moscow's frenemy, Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan. The journalist and political scientist George Bovt believed that Russia had nothing to gain from inserting itself into the quarrel between Macron and Erdogan as both were exploiting the issue for domestic political purposes:
"Neither France nor Turkey are our allies. None of the ambitious presidents will appreciate our support in this political conflict. Although the very politicization of Islam and its transformation into a part of Turkey's actual foreign policy doctrine can only arouse concern. However, in tactical terms, the situation today for Moscow is such that for too many reasons, it is better for it not to define itself in this conflict at all, limiting itself to what Peskov said about Kadirov's statements".
The authorities also sought to allow Russian Muslims to vent their anger by allowing unauthorized demonstrations at the French embassy in Moscow and only belatedly carried out arrests. The French appealed to Russia to provide security to the embassy and issue a condemnation.
Peskov was forced to rebuke the Chechen Mufti, who threatened Frenchmen residing in Russia if they supported Emmanuel Macron. "And then ... Macron is far away, he is close, so it may turn out that he will have to answer for the words of his president." Peskov replied: "Everyone should be within the bounds of the Russian Federation's laws, and any actions that pose a threat to foreigners in the country are unacceptable."
Sobchak: Kadirov's Thinking Is Medieval
As the authorities refused to take issue with Kadirov on substance, it fell to Kseniya Sobchak a television presenter, actress and daughter of Putin's former mentor, St. Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak to issue a response in Echo of Moscow. She wrote the following in a post titled "These Days Macron is My Hero":
"Freedom is the most valuable thing a person has. And all world religions, all the world's countries are trying to steal it. [It's] a matter of degree and balance.
"What happened in France is very important. These days Macron is my hero.
"Let me point out, that teacher Samuel Paty was killed for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to schoolchildren at a lesson dedicated to freedom of speech while asking everyone who could get offended to leave the class. At his funeral, Macron announced that France will continue to publish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad because it is freedom of speech.
"Kadirov decided to answer him: 'Insulting attitude towards religion, ridicule of it – all these they consider to be implementation of freedom of speech, but at the same time they themselves encroach on other people's values.'
"This is a remarkably medieval understanding of an 'encroachment on values'. That is, non-acceptance of other people's values is an encroachment upon on them?
"If you don't want to look at the pictures of the prophet, [then] don't. The freedom is to leave the classroom where they are being shown.
'You like to sit wrapped up to your eyes on the beach in Nice? – it's your right, and mine - is to go about in a bikini.
"Is such a simple truth so difficult for humanity to understand? If you don't like something – DON'T LOOK, GO [away], DON'T GET INVOLVED. Allow everyone else the freedom to do what they want and like.
"If something is not listed in the criminal code, then it's PERMITTED. After all, they are trying to get their way - everyone is afraid to even joke about Muhammad and Muslims!!! This means that they ALREADY deprived of freedom through terror.
"We have been intimidated by fanatics, who are teaching us to think, that for such thing they can cut off our heads. That is why Macron, who said this in modern, semi-Muslim France, is my hero.
"UPD: after the publication of this post, my number is being attacked by some people with a Caucasian accent and with threats. P*** [swearword]. Q.E.D."
Ksenia Sobchak (Source: Rbc.ru)
Tjournal.ru published a photo of Sobchak's telephone:
(Source: T.journal.ru, October 29, 2020)
The text messages read: "It's not a problem to find you. You better pick up a phone"
"Her head will also be there, if she won't delete the post. Hands off of our prophet Muhammad. She should apologize in front of all Muslims, otherwise…"
Sobchak also drew the anger of another mixed martial arts fighter, Magomed Ismailov: "I want to say: Ksenia, you are a filthy stupid animal. You are like a flower, grown out of feces. "
T.me/s/RKadyrov_95, October 27, 2020.
 Knews.kg, October 29, 2020.
 T.me/s/RKadyrov_95, October 28, 2020.
 Gazeta.ru, October 29, 2020.
 Ria.ru, October 28, 2020.
 t.me/nexta_live_by/3541, October 28, 2020.
 Rbc.ru, October 31, 2020.
 Bfm.ru October 28, 2020.
 Iz.ru, October 31, 2020.
 Mk.ru, November 2, 2020.
 Echo.msk.ru, October 28, 2020.
 Lenta.ru, October 28, 2020.