Pussy Riot case, Muslims invoke spiritual courts
by Nina Achmatova
Other faiths are united in the orthodox condemnation of the exhibition punk girl group in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Catholics invite dialogue and to avoid repression. On the street people ask why the Patriarch Kirill does not show forgiveness to the two arrested girls.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Muslims and Jews have joined the harsh condemnation voiced by the Patriarchate of Moscow against the punk-feminist and anti-Putin band, Pussy Riot. Arrested for having staged a performance on February 21 desecrating the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, the case of these musicians-activists has provoked heated debate over respect for Russian public places of worship and freedom of expression.

According to a prominent Muslim lawyer, Dagir Khasavov, Pussy Riot are "mentally ill" and therefore can not be tried as normal people. For the lawyer, the girls performance is "the worst manifestation of the underground culture in a consumer and immoral society supported by those in society who demand unlimited personal freedom." For Khasanov, "the incident demonstrates once again the need now more than ever to establish the spiritual courts in Russia and incorporate them into the judicial system."

Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, two of the young activists, were arrested March 3 on charges of hooliganism, according to Article 213 paragraph 2 of the Criminal Code, which provides up to seven years in prison. Senior members of the Russian Orthodox Church had condemned the act as "blasphemous" and called for exemplary punishment against their " punk prayer ", performances in which they invoked the intercession of the Virgin "to free Russia from Putin." The girls, mothers of young children, have denied their involvement, going on hunger strike, but the court of Moscow has dismissed the appeal by their lawyers. Maria and Nadezhda will remain in jail until April 24. However for days now, all talk on the street and in the papers is about them.

The Jewish community has condemned the provocative gesture of the punk-feminist band, which has now become a symbol of anti-Putin protests that broke out in December. "These people have not only insulted Christians, but all faithful - said Andrey Glotser spokesman for the Rabbi of Russia - they have turned a temple into a political forum." "Their actions - he added - will not bring peace to our troubled society, rather it is a very dangerous symptom".

More moderate the comments come from the Catholic Church in Russia. While criticizing the performance, Kirill Gorbunov, director of information centre of the Mother of God Archdiocese in Moscow, called for less severe punishment for an act he described as "hooliganism" but nonetheless "insignificant". "The most important thing in these cases is to choose the path of dialogue - he told the newspaper Afisha - if you try to solve the problem with repression, then you will get the opposite effect."

The Orthodox community is divided, with the church hierarchy unwilling to show mercy and many lay people who, instead, ask for the release of two women. On the Internet, a group of believers has prepared a petition - already with 3 thousand signatures - to be presented to Patriarch Kirill, to intercede to close the case, while in every taxi or supermarket in Moscow, the case became the subject of conversation. It is not hard to meet people who quote the Gospel and wonder why Kirill has forgotten what is written in the Gospel: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."