The uproar over the building of a potential new mosque in Moscow’s Tekstilshchiki district has drawn attention to religious conflict in the city.
The Moscow News According to Interfax, nearly 2,000 signatures were collected to protest the building of a mosque on Volzhsky Boulevard, in the Tekstilshchiki district in Southeast Moscow. Although the Moscow Patriarchate does not oppose the mosque, Orthodox activists complain that officials previously prohibited the building of a Russian Orthodox place of worship in the same spot, citing a lack of infrastructure. (Sounds like NYC, yes to a Mega Mosque at Ground Zero, no to the Greek Orthodox church)
Local authorities now say that the mosque will not be built until public hearings on the issue take place, Gazeta.ru reported“Bureaucrats need to ask the residents what they want, so that everyone will agree on the size on the building, so that they can be assured that there won’t be an enormous minaret dwarfing everything around it and scaring passing grandmas,” Roman Lunkin, director of the Religion and Justice Institute, said.
The issue has been hotly debated in the blogosphere. Mikhail, a blogger who asked that his last name not be used, told The Moscow News that his opposition to the building of a new mosque is a response to the March 29 terror blasts on the Moscow metro. “We were reminded that extremism is real,” he said. “We have people in Tekstilshchiki who are frightened, and the authorities need to listen.”
Roman Lunkin pointed out that there is a real shortage of mosques in Moscow, which serves to alienate Muslims. “Driving the Muslim community underground helps hidden extremism grow,” he said. “This is dangerous.” (Driving them out of Russia would help)
Others say that the conflict is over a practical matter. “The protest is not against the mosque,” Mikhail Butrimov, leader of the Moi Dvor (“My yard”) movement, told Gazeta.ru. “The general plan for the development of Moscow does not authorize any building project on this site. The people would like a park, where they can take walks and walk their dogs.”These are the kinds of monstrosities Muslims build in Russia
Shamil, a Moscow resident and practising Muslim who asked that his last name not be used, told The Moscow News that he believes that the issue has been blown out of proportion by the media. He also pointed out that the shortage of mosques in Moscow is
nevertheless a problem. (Who cares?)
“My wife and I are Russian citizens, we have lived peacefully [in Moscow] for many years, we are friends with our neighbours, but it seems that we can’t be public with our faith,” Shamil said. (There are at least 57 countries where Muslims are welcome. Go there)
Gulnar Gazieva, spokesperson for the Russian Council of Muftis, the organisation behind the building project, said that there is not enough space for Moscow’s Muslims to congregate properly. “Moscow is home to various faiths, and it is in everyone’s best interest that faithful people have proper places of worship,” she said. (See above)
Interfax quoted sociologist Roman Silantyev as saying that Moscow has six big mosques and only 400,000 local Muslims.
Gazieva disagreed. “Two of the mosques [Silantyev] mentioned are actually located on the premises of the embassies of Saudi Arabia and Iran, so it is foolish to include them in this list,” she said. “We know that a little less than a million Muslims are permanent residents of Moscow. (That’s a little less than a million too many)
Roman Lunkin, director of the Religion and Justice Institute, said that the authorities must be more proactive in dealing with Muslims. “Right now, politicians only really pay attention to the Russian Orthodox Church,” he said. “But our society is developing and progressing. A diverse city – and country – needs to be inclusive if it’s going to prosper.” (Muslims don’t want to integrate, they want to rule) H/T Susan K
The city of Moscow, which is about one-fifth Muslim, has only four mosques. The planned construction of a fifth, with approval of the city government, has angered some citizens:
More than 1,000 people from the district have signed a petition against the mosque’s construction, arguing that it would affect parking and inconvenience local dog owners, who could be restricted from walking their pets near the mosque.”
Opponents also complain that the mosque is located in the district’s only “green zone,” an area that is supposed to be reserved for parks.
Aleksandr Kuzmichyov, a 55-year-old computer programmer, says he and all his friends and neighbors are opposed to the mosque. “First of all it’s a green area, it’s a residential area and dogs go for a walk there,” he says. “They’ll be nowhere to walk them, they’ll be in the courtyard.”
Others express more xenophobic sentiments, saying they fear an influx of Chechens and other people from the Caucasus.