09/27/2012, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Duma studies draft blasphemy law: the support of the Patriarch, the hopes of Muslims

by Nina Achmatova
The text provides for up to five years in prison for desecration and destruction of religious symbols. For the Orthodox Church, society has long been in need of the initiative, while Muslims hope that it will protect their right to build mosques.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Already pre-announced by national press, the draft legislation that will introduce fines and penalties for "offenses against religion and the religious sentiment", was presented to the Russian parliament yesterday.  The proposal is supported by the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate and also Muslims, the second largest religious community in the Federation.

According to the text - which has the support of all four parties in the lower house of parliament - "public insults to the faith and humiliation during liturgical services" will be subject to fines of up to 300 thousand rubles (10 thousand dollars), to 200 hours community service or imprisonment for three years. For the desecration and destruction of religious objects, places of worship and pilgrimage, fines arrive at 100 to 500 thousand rubles, 400 hours mandatory community service or up to five years in prison.

The legislative initiative comes on the heels of the controversy raised by the Pussy Riot case, the Russian feminist punk band members sentenced to two years in prison for a performance in February, in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. The prosecution during the trial, relied on the alleged offense against the Orthodox faithful. But the issue is not only related to the Church. Even within the Muslim community (18% of the population), after the spread of anti-Islam film that sparked violent protests in more than 20 countries, tensions are running high. The Russian judicial authorities are trying to prevent access to the trailer on Youtube . Meanwhile internet providers in some regions such as Volgograd, Omsk are blocking the site hosting the controversial video.

According to a Vtsiom State institute survey, 82% of Russians are in favor of a stiffer penalties against blasphemy especially after a succession of vandalism against religious symbols: soiling of icons, crosses destroyed in different parts of the country. "This broad consensus in society - said the head of the Synodal Department for Relations between state and society, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin - is a clear sign that many were waiting for this initiative."

The draft law has also found the consensus of Muslim leaders, who they hope will be used "against those who try to foment ethnic hatred and religious." The mufti of Moscow and central Russia Albir Krganov, expressed the hope that the law protects the right of "every community of traditional religions" to build their own places of worship. The question is rather delicate, he noted, with different regions with a Muslim majority where attempts are being made to prevent the construction of new churches and Moscow, where there are protests against the construction of new mosques.

 

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