Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is threatening to sue Russian authorities after he was allegedly denied access to the Holy Quran.
Navalny, who is a Christian, said in an Instagram post by his team on Tuesday: “I realised that my development as a Christian also requires studying the Quran.”
“They won’t give me my Quran. And it’s infuriating,” read the statement from the leader of the Russia of the Future Party. “When I was jailed, I made a list of ways I wanted to improve myself that I will try to complete in jail. One of the points was to deeply study and understand the Quran,” he said.
Navalny added that his goal was to become “the Quran champion” among Russia’s non-Muslim politicians.
The politician, who is backed by the West, was ordered by a Russian court to serve a two and a half year prison term for violating the terms of his probation in February after a 2014 sentence for embezzlement.
Part of those probation violations included a trip to Germany, which Navalny claimed he took to recover from being poisoned after an attempt on his life that he blames on President Putin.
Navlany is serving his sentence at a penal labor colony near Moscow. In response to his treatment, he has also launched a hunger strike. His lawyers and representatives said he is suffering from weight loss and fatigue while in prison.
However, Navalny, who said he has previously read the Quran, has made a number of comments critical of Russian Muslims and Muslim immigrants to Russia.
In a 2015 blog post, he voiced support of Switzerland’s ban on the construction of minarets. In that same post he criticized the building of the Moscow Cathedral Mosque, whose grand opening in 2015 was attended by Putin.
In the past Navalny has written critically of Islamic education in Chechnya, which is ruled by Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin loyalist. Navalny has questioned the role of Islam in governance in the Caucasus region and once referred to economic migrants from the North Caucasus, a Muslim-majority region, as “cockroaches.”
“It is clear that this Islamophobe is trying to use the Holy Scriptures for his own political purposes and will definitely use quotes for provocations, as they have long learned to do in Europe,” wrote Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic in a post on his Telegram channel.
He added, “On behalf of the Muslims of Russia, I appeal to the employees of the colony where the provocateur is being held: do not let the prisoner serving a fair sentence sow sectarian strife!”
Muslims make up roughly 15% of Russia’s population and make up the majority in seven regions of Russia.