MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian court paved the way for a potential closure of the video-sharing website YouTube by banning an anti-Islam video on Monday that sparked violent protests across the Muslim world.
Moscow’s Tverskoy Court ruled that the crude video, which was made in the United States and portrays the Prophet Mohammad as a fool and a womanizer, was “extremist”.
Prosecutor Viktoria Maslova told the court that the video “puts the Islamic religion in a bad light and aids the rise of religious intolerance in the Russian Federation”, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.
Under legislation that goes into effect on November 1, Internet sites carrying content banned in Russia will be placed on a register, after which Internet providers will have one day to block access.
Google Inc, the owner of YouTube, said it was ready to block access of the film to users in Russia once it received the court’s decision, the RIA agency reported. No one at Google was available for comment to Reuters.
Google has blocked the 13-minute video in a number of Muslim countries including Egypt and Libya where U.S. diplomatic premises have been attacked by protesters.
Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov, one of the opponents of the new law, said last month that the video could be used as a pretext to close down YouTube.
Religious sentiment has become a subject of debate since an anti-Kremlin demonstration by the punk band Pussy Riot in Moscow’s main cathedral angered the politically powerful Russian Orthodox Church.
Three band members received two-year jail sentences for ‘hooliganism based on religious hatred’. They said they were in fact being punished for publicly criticising President Vladimir Putin.
Authorities in Russia, home to 20 million Muslims, have been quick to seize on the Muslim reaction to the online video to point to the dangers of hurting religious sensitivities.
A court in the North Caucasus region of Chechnya, where Russia is fighting an insurgency against Islamist separatists, decided last week to ban the video as extremist, local media reported.
Reporting by Thomas Grove; Editing by Kevin Liffey