Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Call boys Muhammad, Kadyrov urges

Ramzan Kadyrov (file)
President Ramzan Kadyrov says he believes in traditional Islam

Chechnya's President, Ramzan Kadyrov, has asked the parents of baby boys born on the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad to name them after him.

Mr Kadyrov said no-one would be forced by the authorities to do so, but that it was merely something he wanted.

The parents of all boys born in the mainly Muslim Russian republic on the birthday, which is being marked from 8 to 9 March, will also receive $1,400.

Mr Kadyrov has sought to impose strict Islamic values since coming to power.

He has encouraged men to take more than one wife, even though polygamy is illegal in Russia. Women are also now required to wear headscarves and long skirts in all government offices.

Kremlin support

At a news conference in Grozny on Monday, President Kadyrov said the Chechen authorities were not forcing parents to name their boys after the Prophet Muhammad, but that it was "simply our wish".

I ask their parents to name the boys after Muhammad
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov

He added that as a mark of the importance of the occasion, a public fund would make a payment of 50,000 roubles to the parents of boys who are born between the night of 8 March and midday on 9 March.

He said the money would be paid irrespective of the parents' religion or the name chosen for their son.

The president said that Chechnya would celebrate Muhammad's birthday every year from now on, "each time on a larger scale, and in a more organised and beautiful manner".

The 32-year-old former militia leader, whose father was once the rebel Mufti of Chechnya, has launched a campaign to impose Islamic values and strengthen traditional customs in the republic since becoming its leader in 2007.

Critics say he wants to prevent separatist rebels and opponents from being able to accuse him of not being a committed Muslim.

They add that some of the measures he has introduced violate the Russian constitution, which guarantees equal rights for women and a separation between church and state. However, the Kremlin has given him its backing.

In the past, Mr Kadyrov has also been accused by human rights groups of using brutal methods against rebels, including kidnapping, torture and summary execution. He denies the allegations.

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