A court in the Chechen capital Grozny has ruled the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ as extremist material, allowing the authorities to block access to it all over the Russian Federation.
Chechen Minister for Ethnic Policy, Press and Information, Murat Tagirov, explained the court had established that further distribution of the film can lead to serious negative consequences, and destabilize the situation in the whole region as a considerable part of its population is Muslim.
The court also ordered the authorities to take measures against the film’s distribution before the final ruling on the issue comes into force.
The decision effectively bans ‘Innocence of Muslims’ in the whole territory of the Russian Federation as, according to the Russian Law on Extremism, any work that is recognized as extremist material by any court is added to the federal list of extremist materials.
Earlier, internet providers in Chechnya took measures to block the user access to the ‘Innocence of Muslims’, but only as a preventative good will measure, after a personal request by the republic’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
Hearings on the extremist nature of the’ Innocence of Muslims’ are also scheduled in Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court on October 1.
By its Friday ruling the Grozny court satisfied the lawsuit filed by the Republic’s Ministry for Ethnic Policy, Press and Information. In it, the authorities claimed the film “was describing the life of the Prophet Mohammed and his followers in a distorted and insulting form” and that it was instigating inter-confessional and national hatred.
The Federal Prosecutor General’s Office and consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor contacted Russian internet companies and ISPs earlier this month with a request to block user access to the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ as it could hurt believers’ feelings. Very few ISPs from regions with predominantly Muslim population complied with the advice while the rest said they will follow the court order.
The situation with the Google, the owner of the major video hosting site YouTube is still unclear. After receiving an initial warning Google said it forwarded it to the US office. On Friday Google representative told reporters that the company will block access to the film on Russian territory as soon as it receives a copy of the Chechen court ruling.
The head of the major Russian social network Vkontakte, which also hosts video for its users, said on Thursday that he decided to delete the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ from his company servers. The owner initially claimed he would only do it by the order of the court, but then justified his step by saying the film was cheap, lame and incapable of sparking discussion.
The opinion of Russian society on the court ban appears split. Journalism guru Vladimir Pozner has called the ruling ‘a counter-productive mistake’ as it will only cause an outbreak of anti-religious sentiments. Senator Ruslan Gattarov, who was the first to seek a ban by contacting prosecutors, praised the decision. “This ruling is absolutely right and we in the Federation Council are satisfied by this very court ruling,” said Gattarov who is a member of the Upper House’s commission on information politics.
The Imam of the Moscow Historical Mosque, Rufat Akhmedjanov, said that he approved of the court decision and that he was sure that this move would not add to the anti-Islamic mood in the country.