10/16/2012, 00.00
RUSSIA

Mayor of Moscow against new places of worship for Muslims

For Sobyanin, the city does not need new mosques, because "they are frequented by illegal residents ". Opposition and human rights activists warn: this is likely to foster interfaith tension.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Controversy abounds in Moscow after Mayor Sergei Sobyanin's statement that he is opposed to the construction of new mosques in the capital, raising fears of the opposition and human rights activists that this could spark fresh religious tensions.

Citing a recent study, Sobyanin said that "two-thirds" of Muslims attending the main mosque of the city are not from Moscow, but "come from the surrounding areas and have no residence permit." "If only Muscovites who permanently live here go to the mosque - said the mayor - there would probably be no over crowding".

In August, to celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan, about 90 thousand people gathered in the streets surrounding the mosque near the Olimpiisky stadium, including traffic jams and complaints from the local population.

For some time, the Muslim leaders complained that the city's four mosques are no longer enough for a community that has reached 2 million faithful. The Council of muftis has asked that a place of worship be made available in each of the 12 administrative districts of the capital, but the authorities soon abandoned any project due to protests of the population. As was the case in September, when the council announced its withdrawal of the plan for the construction of a large mosque in Mitino, outside the village, after 2 thousand people took to the streets to express their dissent.

Sergei Mitrokhin, leader of the opposition party Yabloko and former deputy of the Duma in Moscow, called  Sobyanin's affirmation "strange", because "even the Christian churches in Moscow are not only used by the local residents." "Instead of studying integration policies in a multi-ethnic city like this - the politician denounced to the Moscow Times - the mayor is allowed to make statements that could lead to further tensions."

Even Olga Sibiryova, of Sova think tank, finds that the words of Sobyanin "discriminatory" : the city council "is not helping those, however, who are protesting against the construction of new orthodox churches and certainly will not control the origins of the Christian faithful. " "The lack of mosques - she concludes- could stir up tensions much more than their construction would." (N.A.)

 

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