Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that insulting Prophet Mohammad (ﷺ) does not count as freedom of expression and insults to the prophet (ﷺ) are a “violation of religious freedom and the violation of the sacred feelings of people who profess Islam.
The comments were made on Thursday during an annual news conference in Moscow, Russian News Agency TASS reported.
Putin said these acts give rise to extremist reprisals, citing as an example the attack on the editorial office of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris after its publication of cartoons of the prophet (ﷺ).
He further stated that Russia had evolved as a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state and so Russians were used to respecting each other’s traditions.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan welcomed Putin’s statement, saying it “reaffirms my message that insulting Holy Prophet (ﷺ) is not ‘freedom of expression’.”
“We Muslims, especially Muslim leaders, must spread this message to leaders of the non-Muslim world to counter Islamophobia,” Khan said.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also appreciated the Russian president’s statement.
“Insulting our Holy Prophet (ﷺ) is indeed a violation of religious freedom and is a far cry from freedom of expression,” he said.
Charlie Hebdo had published the blasphemous sketches in 2015, prompting condemnation from Muslims across the world.
The publication had also led to an attack on the magazine’s office on January 7, 2015, in which 12 persons had been killed.
The issue had resurfaced in 2020 when the magazine republished the sketches on September 2 to coincide with the trial of 14 people accused of helping the attackers carry out their gun rampage against the magazine staffers.
A month later, a history teacher in France was beheaded after he had shown the caricatures in his class. In a ceremony dedicated to the teacher, French President Emmanuel Macron had vowed not to “give up [the] cartoons” and also made contentious remarks against “Islamists”, who he said “want our future”.
The caricatures were then also projected onto the facade of a building in one city and at protests around the country. The move and the French president’s remarks had drawn criticism from the Muslim World.