Russian Journalist Stabbed 20 Times, Apparently for Insulting Islam

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Attacks on journalists are, unfortunately, not terribly uncommon in Russia, so it's weird that a radio presenter recently embroiled in controversy would comply with an anonymous midnight text asking him to come outside, where he was stabbed 20 times.

Our best guess as to why 46-year-old radio presenter Sergei Aslanyan apparently walked into an attack is that he's an automobile journalist, and probably not used to the kind of controversy in which he finds himself. The Guardian's Miriam Elder has the most detailed English-language account of the attack, which is still pretty slim:

Police sources said Aslanyan received a call from an unknown number just before midnight, inviting him outside for a chat. After leaving his home in southern Moscow, he was stabbed repeatedly in the chest, neck and arms by a man, or several men, wielding a knife.

Apparently Aslanyan insulted the prophet Muhammad in a broadcast, and his assailants were looking to get even for that. Russian news site RIA Novosti reports: "On May 14 on a live radio show on Radio Mayak, Aslanyan discussed the question of choosing a new car, and used the expression, 'from rags to riches,' in the context of a discussion about the biography of the Prophet Muhammad, in a manner which has drawn condemnation from some parts of the Muslim community, with some pro-Islamic media publishing negative articles referring to the remarks."

From his hospital bed in Moscow, Aslanyan gave some of his first comments to the Armenian news site (Aslanyan is Russian-Armenian): "They called me at 11:15. I went out to the corridor and saw a man there. When I approached he attacked me, yelling 'You are an enemy of Allah!' " But Aslanyan didn't say why he went to meet the man in the first place.

As Elder points out, "more than 50 journalists have been killed in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union," and most of those cases remain unsolved. With that in mind, it seems strange that a veteran Russian journalist would venture out into the night to meet an unknown person for something so vague as "a chat." But when you're on the car beat, life-threatening controversy doesn't tend to come with the territory.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.