MOSCOW: With a population of 12.5 million, Russia’s capital is now home to at least 1.5 million Muslims, making it one of Europe’s largest Muslim city according to political analyst Alexei Malashenko.
Whether the Muslim population is met with acceptability in the capital remains ambivalent Malashenko said ”Moscow is slowly adapting to being Europe’s largest Muslim city, and Muslims are gradually adapting to it.”
At one end, the Muslims of Moscow seem to have been able to fit well within the social jigsaw of Russian society. Religious demonstrations and public rituals have taken place on a large scale; of which one included a gathering of a total of 180,000 people at five mosques and three temporary sites in celebration of the end of the holy month of Ramazan.
Another included a gathering of 60,000 in light of Eidul Fitr at the golden domed Sobornaya mosque. However those who passed by appeared to be scared and baton-wielding police officers were present.
Furthermore, a new custom in Moscow includes thousands of Muslims gathering on Saturday mornings, chanting “God is great!” Additionally, the presence of Muslim’s in Moscow has given rise to a large number of ethnic Russians reverting to Islam.
“I hear many compliments about how I am dressed and how beautiful it looks,” said Anastasiya Korchagina, who changed her first name to Aisha after reverting to Islam five years ago.
However, the extent to which the Muslims of Moscow feel unpleasant is reasonable. Citizens have claimed that in the workplace they are censured for carrying out their prayers. Similarly, Murad Abdullaev told a news channel that “You want to pray at a mosque, you have to enter a cage.”
The number of mosques too remain limited to six within the large city, consequent to the fact that attempts to build more are met with resistance. There exist only a handful of Muslim kinder-garden schools and only two halal hotels in the city. The only Muslim health clinic and gym shut down soon after their opening.