Putin Opens Moscow Grand Mosque*
Russian President Vladimir Putin has inaugurated one of the biggest European mosques in the capital, Moscow.
“This mosque will become an extremely important spiritual centre for Muslims in Moscow and the whole Russia,” Putin said in a televised speech during the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday.
The unveiling ceremony of the 20,000-square-meter mosque, known as the Moscow Cathedral Mosque, in the Russian capital was attended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas and a host of other guests.
“It will be a source for education, spreading humanist ideas and the true values of Islam,” Putin underscored.
He went on to say that the mosque is a central part of Moscow’s efforts to counter recruitment by extremists.
The Russian president further stated that terrorist groups such as Daesh Takfiri group have distorted the image of Islam.
Russia’s Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev estimated last week that some 1,800 Russian citizens are fighting for the Daesh terrorist group.
“Terrorists from the so-called Islamic State (Daesh) actually cast a shadow on the great global religion of Islam,” he said, adding,
“Their ideology is built on hate.”
Putin said the Takfiri group “attempts to cynically exploit religious feeling for political ends. We see what is happening in the Middle East where terrorists from the so-called Islamic State group are compromising a great world religion, compromising Islam, in order to sow hate.”
The USD170-million (EUR150-million) project, which took a decade to complete, can host over 10,000 worshipers.
The mosque has been built on the site of a smaller mosque in the city which was constructed in 1904.
“Finally, Moscow, which lays claim to the title of the biggest Muslim city in Europe, has a big mosque,” said Aleksei Malashenko, an expert on Islam at the Carnegie Moscow Centre, adding,
“It shows that the centre of Islamic life in the Russian Federation is in Moscow.”
An estimated 20 million Muslims live in Russia.
There are three other official mosques in Moscow where Muslims make up about 16% of the population. As many as 12.5 million people live in the city.
“It is strange that in such a big city like Moscow there are only four mosques, and even this one does not solve the problems in terms of space,” said Maksim Shevchenko, a member of the Kremlin’s human rights council who concentrates on religious issues.
Around 140 thousand Muslims have gathered at mosques in Moscow to celebrate the Feast of Sacrifice, an Islamic holiday dedicated to the Prophet Ibrahim. The main celebrations took place at the newly-opened Moscow Cathedral Mosque, one of the biggest in Europe.
The celebration of Eid al-Adha – known as Kurban Bayram in Russia – began at 06:30 local time (03:30 GMT). The service at Moscow Cathedral Mosque was carried out by Russian Grand Mufti Rawil Gaynetdin who opened the mosque on Wednesday, along with President Vladimir Putin.
The Muslims are praying for peace in Syria, Iraq, Libya and other countries “where the blood is being shed,” said Gaynetdin.
“Our religion…calls for peace and respect for other peoples. We will never take such ideological directions, which make our youth ‘zombies’ so that they would take the route of those who will kill their brothers in faith and destroy cities and cultural heritage sites,” he added.
The celebrations also took place in two other mosques in Moscow – The Old Mosque and Memorial mosque.
There are roughly two million Muslims currently living in Moscow, according to Gaynetdin, however, only around 10% of them gathered in the capital’s mosques for prayers.
This year, Eid al-Adha falls on September 24. The celebrations usually begin with a prayer followed by a sermon. The celebrations mark the end of the hajj for Muslims making their pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Every Muslim is expected to undertake the trip at least once in their life. The hajj is a multi-day ceremony that finishes on the day of Eid al-Adha.
Animal sacrifice is a part of the Eid al-Adha celebrations. In recent years, the Moscow authorities banned the practice being carried out on the streets. Thirty-nine places have been designated for worshipers to undertake this ritual in the capital. The meat from the sacrificed animal should be divided into three parts. The first is retained for the family, the second is given to relatives, and the third is meant for the poor.