The leaders of Moscow’s 1.5 million strong Muslim community say they desperately need more places of worship. But a plan to build a new mosque has run into local opposition which is being fuelled by nationalists calling for a ‘clean Moscow’ without Muslims and foreigners.
Russia TodayNationalist organizations have criticized Moscow Chief Mufti Albir Krganov’s initiative to build more mosques in Russia to accommodate the needs of the large inflow of immigrants from Muslim countries coming in to steal jobs from Russians and overburden social services.
“This approach is not totally correct,” chairman of the Russkiye movement’s supervisory board Alexander Belov told Interfax on Tuesday. “It is necessary to decide once and for all – whether Russia will turn into an Islamic state or will remain a secular state, where foreign immigrants come, find jobs and leave after their work is over,” he said.
“If immigrants live no one knows where but want to build a mosque in my yard, this approach is certainly wrong,” Belov said.
“It is necessary to restore order to the immigration processes and understand where, to which region foreign immigrants should come, where they are needed, and where roads should be built – in Moscow or in Siberia,” he said.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Moscow’s chief mufti proposed building new mosques in Russia in response to the massive inflow of immigrants from Muslim countries. “We are troubled by the shortage of places to pray,” he said.
Tensions between Russian natives and members of the Muslim community have been on the rise. In September, Moscow authorities announced they were shelving a project to build a mosque in the suburbs of the Russian capital after a large number of protesters gathered in the northwestern neighborhood to express their disapproval of the plans.
Last week, however, prospects for more mosque construction were dashed when Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said many of the worshipers are not Muscovites. Sobyanin revealed that “two-thirds” of the worshippers at the city’s main Cathedral Mosque were not registered in the city of Moscow.
In August, tens of thousands of worshippers filled the streets around the Cathedral Mosque in the center of Moscow to mark the end of Ramadan. Moscow has four mosques for an estimated 2 million worshippers, a shortage that has compelled Islamic groups to seek additional places of worship.
As opposition to mosque building grows, imams issue veiled threats of terrorism if they are not allowed to build more Islamic indoctrination centers.
SpiegelSmall trees are supposed to be keeping the Muslims out of Tekstilshchiki, a district in south eastern Moscow. “We want a park here and not a mosque or a church or anything else,” says the mother who is here with her six-year-old son. There are about a hundred residents of Tekstilshchiki gathered on this lawn –and they want to prevent the start of construction on an Islamic religious center.
The Moscow media have already christened this patch of green “the Russian Ground Zero” in a reflection of strife over the mosque being built near Ground Zero, the site where the twin towers of the World Trade Center stood in New York before the terror attack of 9/11. The country’s largest online newspaper, gazeta.ru, drew parallels with other European controversies surrounding Islam: The burqa banin France and the immigration debate now raging in Germany. Europeans are frightened of Islam because the religion’s values are utterly foreign to them, the article said. “Now we are experiencing something similar in Moscow and St. Petersburg.”
The Moscow mufti council, which is responsible for building the mosque, is convinced that nationalists are behind the protests against their house of worship. They say that the mosque will be built at the edge of the park anyway, leaving plenty of room for recreation and dog walkers. “The problem lies elsewhere,” says Ildar Aljautdinov, the imam at Moscow’s largest mosque. He warns that some Muslims may become radicalized if they don’t have mosques to worship in. “We must build more mosques,” he says. “Otherwise something bad will replace the religion.”