Friday, September 24, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Based on Demand, Moscow Should Have ‘No Fewer’ than 150 Mosques, Tyumen Religious Leaders Say

Paul Goble

Staunton, September 24 – Based on the number of practicing Muslims in the Russian capital, Moscow should have “no fewer than 150 mosques,” according to the kazi of Tyumen, the latest comment on the dispute over whether that city will even allow the construction of one additional mosque to the four it currently has.
But in an even more important development, a Christian leader there not only has supported this call but has argued that religious groups, including the Moscow Patriarchate, must be allowed to construct churches only where they can show demand for such services rather than to “mark” a territory as belonging to one or another faith, as some Orthodox leaders argue.
At a meeting this week of the Congress of Religious Organization of Tyumen Oblast (KROTO), Fatykh Garifullin, the chief of the kaziyat of the Tyumen Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD), said that the demand for Muslim prayer houses far exceeds the supply in Moscow (
The Muslim judge noted that “55,000 people came to one cathedral mosque [in Moscow] for the holiday prayers” earlier this week, that “military units” blocked their way, and that most were forced to say their prayers while kneeling in the streets, thereby creating the impression that “Muslims are the citizens of Russia with the fewest rights.”
That situation could be corrected, he continued, by the construction in the Russian capital of “150 small mosques” designed for “400 to 500 believers” each. “Otherwise,” he warned, “with each Muslim holiday, the number of believers outside the mosques will increase and this will generate ever more hostility from non-Muslim Muscovites.”
Garifullin added that there was no need to build numerous “large pompous” mosques in Moscow. “One major cathedral mosque is sufficient; the remaining 150 to 200 mosques should be modest” in size and appearance. And another Muslim participant in the meeting proposed using “modular” buildings, just as the Moscow Patriarchate has suggested for new churches.
The kazi’s proposal was supported by Yevgeny Shestakov, the KROTO chairman, who pointedly noted that “the religious facilities of any confession must be build on the basis of demand for them and not in order to designate ‘their territory.’” Additional construction based on any other principle will only make the current situation worse.
KROTO, an organization which unites Muslims, Jews, some Protestants and non-Orthodox Christians in Tyumen, this year marks its fifth anniversary, and participants said they would like to have the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. But so far, the latter have “ignored” all invitations to take part either fully or as an observer.
(KROTO over the course of its history has also repeatedly invited representatives of the Old Believers, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which has a regional center in Ishim, Tyumen Catholics, and the newly-established Lutheran organization in Tyumen to become members.)

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