MOSCOW (AP) – A court in Moscow ruled Monday that an anti-Islam film that has sparked violent demonstrations around the world can no longer be shown in Russia.
Tverskoi court’s ruling follows a similar local decision taken last week by a court in Grozny, the provincial capital of Russia’s Muslim-dominated province of Chechnya.
In Moscow, Justice Ministry spokeswoman Marina Gridneva said the film was deemed extremist because it could incite ethnic and religious hatred.
Russia’s communications minister had warned that authorities would bar access to YouTube if its owner, Google Inc., failed to abide by a court order to block access in this nation to the U.S.-produced film, which mocks Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad.
Google in Russia has said it could restrict access to the video, if it received a court order outlawing it, but the company declined to discuss that issue with The Associated Press on Monday evening.
Outrage at the film has spiraled into violent protests across several countries across the Muslim world. Some two dozen demonstrators have been killed in protests that attacked vestiges of the U.S. and the West, including diplomatic compounds.
The low-budget film, “Innocence of Muslims,” was produced by a U.S. citizen and denigrated the Prophet Muhammad by portraying Islam’s holiest figure as a fraud, womanizer and child molester.
Two issues have fueled calls by Russian lawmakers for a new law banning religious offenses: this film and the case of rock band Pussy Riot’s punk performance February in Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral, which saw them be convicted of hooliganism and sentenced to a two-year jail term.
The RIA-Novosti news agency quoted mufti Shafig Pshikhachev, head of the Coordination Center of Muslims in the North Caucasus, as welcoming Monday’s court ruling in Moscow.
“This is a positive step in defense of believers,” Pshikhachev said. “Unfortunately, we are witnessing such events regularly, so I think the adoption of a law is good. We need a legal method of protecting the faithful and our holy places.”
Some Russian mobile telephone companies took the initiative last week by blocking access to a number of online resources, including YouTube, to its subscribers in the north Caucasus, large swathes of which are inhabited by mainly Muslim populations.