Saturday, March 9, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Mufti Challenges Sobyanin on Mosques, Says Indigenous Muslims Must Help Gastarbeiters Adapt

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 9 – Moscow Mufti Albir Krganov says that Sergey Sobyanin, his city’s mayor, is wrong to dismiss Muslim appeals for the construction of more mosques because so many of those attending the existing six are “not citizens or residents of Moscow” or even “citizens of Russia.” 

            Of course, the mufti says, mosques should only be built in places where the majority of residents do not oppose them, but he reminded the mayor that like many other faiths, Islamic parishes are based on the residents of a particular territory rather than on the citizenship of those attending (

            Krganov suggested that it is important not to exacerbate feelings on either side and proposed that the indigenous Muslims of Moscow can play an important role “as a mediator between residents and guests of the capital” by explaining that they must “respect those traditions and norms which exist here.”

            “No one can prohibit anyone from praying,” the mufti continues, “but it is necessary to consider the existing realities.” Unfortunately from the perspective of Muslims and of those concerned with universal human rights in general, those “realities” in Russia’s capital are running very much against Islam.

            A case this week highlights this situation.  In Khimki, a Moscow suburb, residents decided that what in fact is planned as an office building looked too much like a mosque and demanded that city officials block any further work on the site until they could be sure it wasn’t one (

            Although both the construction company involved and officials at the local Muslim Spiritual Directorate said that the building was never intended to be a mosque, city officials nonetheless stopped construction, creating an “absurd” and “unjust” situation in the words of the Moscow Oblast MSD leader.

            Rushan Abbyasov said that such a situation could only arise because of lack of clarity in the positions of regional and city officials regarding the construction of mosques. “Every day in the newspapers and on television, everyone sees Islam distorted to the point of being unrecognizable,” with these outlets showing militants who act under the cover of the faith.

            That has created a sad “paradox,” he continued. “People who for centuries have not been afraid to live next to Muslims” now are experiencing not on the basis of any personal experiences but rather because of this media coverage “fear and panic when anyone starts talking about the construction of a mosque.” 

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