If Pussy Riot not punished, thousands could have followed them - Russian Chief Rabbi

Russia's Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar supports the punishment of the members of the Pussy Riot punk band for their performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.

"If we talk about the sentence itself, I think it isn't that bad, because they did hurt believers' feelings. It's obvious they were to be punished. It would be nice if they realize what they've done and apologize," Lazar said in an interview with Russian newspaper Kommersant published on Tuesday.

Lazar said he was sorry that the Pussy Riot act has become "the main scandal in the country."

"Of course, it's necessary to discuss problems but church is not the place to do it. If they weren't punished, thousands of such cases could have happened today in synagogues, mosques, and churches," Lazar said.

When asked to comment on the initiative to toughen the punishment for insulting believers' feelings, Lazar said that "such a law should have been passed five years ago, not after the Pussy Riot stunt."

"Then there wouldn't have been that many arguments and issues in the Pussy Riot case. The main thing right now is to design this law in such a way that it'd be impossible to use it in somebody's sordid interests. One should be very careful when applying this law. Religion shouldn't be associated with force. Religion is the most beautiful doctrine helping a person. And when it becomes a reason for disagreement, it's not a religion, it's something else," the rabbi said.

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