Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Muslim Prayer Rooms Open Along Russian Highways in Middle Volga

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – In seven federal subjects in the Middle Volga, prayer rooms are being opened for Muslims who are travelling along major Russian highways there, the result of a joint project by the muftiate of Tatarstan, local mosques and one of the gas station chains, Interfax has announced.

            The 15 square meter prefabricated buildings feature all that is required for Muslims to engage in prayer five times a day. Their location has been chosen on the basis of projected demand (interfax.ru/russia/845542 and newizv.ru/news/society/09-06-2022/na-rossiyskih-trassah-otkroyut-molelnye-komnaty-dlya-musulman).

            What makes this development worthy of note is that some of the prayer rooms are going to be opened not in historically Muslim areas but elsewhere, something that is likely to spark dissent among followers of other faiths and especially the Russian Orthodox Church which is likely to view this as a form of missionary activity and poaching on its canonical territory.

            Controversy and even possibly the destruction of one or more of these facilities are thus very real possibilities. But the fact that the project has gone as far as this suggests that the Russian government at least in principle is prepared to acknowledge in this way that the Muslim “space” in Russia is expanding and that opposing that is certain to be counterproductive. 

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