Russian Newspaper Closes

Jim Heintz, AP, Feb. 21, 2006

A Russian newspaper that reprinted the Prophet Muhammad drawings at the center of a wave of protests in the Islamic world has closed, its owner said Tuesday.

The weekly Nash Region became the second Russian newspaper in a week to shut down amid heightened sensitivities about portrayals of Muhammad. The publications have triggered deadly protests worldwide.

“I shut it down so that it wouldn’t become a real instigation for religious strife,” owner Mikhail Smirnov told The Associated Press. The paper was based in Vologda, about 500 miles north of Moscow.

The newspaper published a collage of the cartoons on Feb. 15 as part of an article examining the furor over the drawings, which were first printed in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September. Muslims have been angered by the cartoons, which include a depiction of the prophet with a turban shaped like a bomb, because of their tone and because Islamic tradition forbids portrayals of the prophet out of concerns they may lead to idolatry.

Prosecutors began investigating editor Anna Smirnova on charges of using her position to incite hatred after Nash Region became the first Russian paper to publish the drawings.

Last week, the mayor of the southern city of Volgograd ordered the closure of the city-owned newspaper Gorodskiye Vesti after it published a cartoon showing Muhammad. The city administration said the order was intended “to prevent incitement of enmity on religious national and social grounds, and also to stop the abuse of media freedom.”

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