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‘A God-fearing youth’ Chechnya’s ‘Grozny TV’ airs sympathetic segment on Chechen teenager who murdered teacher in France

Source: Grozny TV

On Monday, December 7, the Chechen state television channel “Grozny” aired a segment about the funeral of 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov, who was shot dead by French police when they attempted to arrest him for the beheading of history teacher Samuel Paty back in October. During the segment, the channel’s correspondent called Anzorov a “God-fearing youth” and maintained that an “Islamophobic provocation” drove him to commit murder. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on whether or not the statements made during the segment could be considered a justification of terrorism.

On October 16, history teacher Samuel Paty was murdered near his school in the northwestern suburbs of Paris. He was behead just days after he showed caricatures of the Muslim prophet Muhammad to his class during a lecture on freedom of speech. 

His killer was Abdullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old Chechen who was originally from Moscow. French police officers shot Anzorov dead when he tried to flee during an attempted arrest shortly after the killing. French President Emmanuel Macron later described Paty’s murder as a “typical Islamist terrorist attack.” 

Anzorov’s funeral took place in Chechnya on Sunday, December 6. The next day, the Chechen state television channel Grozny aired a segment about the event. Grozny TV correspondent Alkhazur Kerimov described Anzorov as a “God-fearing youth,” maintaining that he wasn’t an aggressive person and that he was driven to commit murder by an “Islamophobic provocation” and insult to the feelings of believers.

Grozny TV’s segment on Abdullakh Anzorov’s funeral
Grozny TV

According Grozny TV, Anzorov’s body was returned to Russia from France (presumably via Turkey) on Saturday, December 5. Anzorov was buried in his family’s ancestral village of Shalazhi in Chechnya’s Urus-Martanovsky district the next day. Describing the funeral, correspondent Alkhazur Kerimov said the following:

This is a great loss for the Anzorov family. After all, today they are saying goodbye to a family member who was in his prime and didn’t have time to fulfill many plans. Abdullakh was a God-fearing youth and never one for any kind of aggressiveness, relatives say, and the incident wouldn’t have happened if not for an openly Islamophobic provocation and pressure on the feelings of believers, they say here.

Such a provocation is difficult to withstand, they say here. According to his relatives, Abdullakh Anzorov studied religion, he was a young man with character and he couldn’t cope with the hurt feelings. The demonstration of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him, prompted him to take this step. 

Anzorov’s parents were also interviewed during the segment; they spoke in Chechen and the television channel didn’t provide a Russian translation. At the end of the segment, correspondent Alkhazur Kerimov said that the French authorities “didn’t learn to go around [sharp] corners, even after the incident on January 7, 2015,” — referring to a terrorist attack on the editorial office of the French weekly Charlie Hebdo over the publication of caricatures of the prophet Muhammad that left 12 people dead. The correspondent added that the “Millions of Muslim rallies, in particular, those in this very Chechen Republic, failed to convey to the French authorities that insulting the religion causes extreme discontent and outrage in every believer.”

After the segment aired, Kerimov told the online publication Poydom that there are “a certain number of people” who believe that Anzorov committed a “heroic” act. For example, Salman Magamadov, the head of the Chechen village of Shalazhi, expressed this opinion on December 7, stating that “for the entire Islamic world he [Anzorov] is a hero.”

Kerimov added that many believe that Anzorov “didn’t quite do the right thing,” because he beheaded the French teacher, not because he murdered him. “Perhaps because of this some contingent of the population thinks that doing this was unnecessary. But the majority seem to support the fact that he [Paty] was killed,” he said.

Commenting on the Grozny TV segment on Tuesday, December 8, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia’s state television channels offer different points of view. 

This point of view may possibly have nothing in common with that single point of view, which in this case might be true, and that’s the point of view that correlates with the position on the absolute condemnation of this murder and unacceptability of such actions.

Peskov declined to answer the question of whether the Kremlin considers this “point of view” a justification of terrorism. A day earlier (on December 7), Peskov, commenting on Anzorov’s funeral, called the murder of Samuel Paty “a terrorist act that cannot be subject to anything except deep condemnation and repudiation.” 

Story by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Eilish Hart

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