Tens of thousands of people marched on Monday through Grozny, the capital of the mainly Muslim Chechnya region of Russia, in a conservative retort to the mass demonstrations in France this month expressing solidarity with the victims of the terror attacks in Paris.
The march in Grozny was led by Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of President Vladimir V. Putin who has used a combination of force and favors to quell radical Islam in Chechnya. The marchers converged on the largest mosque in the region, many of them carrying placards reading “We love Muhammad!” and “We are against caricatures!”
The marchers said they were not rallying in support of the terrorists who killed 17 people in Paris, many of them employees of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. But Mr. Kadyrov said that he and his supporters were “ready to die” in order to protect Muhammad and they praised Russia’s “principled position” of protecting the rights of believers by banning offensive material. Charlie Hebdo frequently published cartoons that poked fun at Muslims and Muhammad.
Wearing a vest emblazoned with “We love the Prophet Muhammad,” Mr. Kadyrov said that Europe had not learned any lessons from the recent bloodshed in Paris. He called the recent marches for peace in France a “street show with slogans in support of permissiveness that lead to bloodshed.”
It was not possible to independently assess the size of the crowd at the march. The Russian Interior Ministry put it at 800,000 people, a figure that, if accurate, would make the march one of the largest public demonstrations in Russia in modern times. It would also mean that the crowd was three times the size of Grozny’s resident population and that 60 percent of all Chechnyans were there.