08/31/2011, 00.00
RUSSIA - ISLAM
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Traffic and controversy, Muslims celebrate Eid al Adha in Moscow

by Nina Achmatova
90 thousand in only four mosques in the capital. The President praises the role of the Islamic community in maintaining peace between different peoples in Russia. But controversy over the inadequate number of the mosques. In Chechnya, an attack results in at least seven dead and 18 injured.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - Traffic in tilt and overcrowded metros. This is how Moscow celebrated the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr. For the holidays, also known as Kurban Bairam in Russia and Central Asia. In the capital alone about 90 thousand faithful gathered for the morning prayer in the only four mosques in the city. Of these 50 thousand, according to the newspaper Rbk, flowed into the Central Prospekt Mira Mosque, insufficient to contain them all. Thus, the scenes of hundreds of men on the streets kneeling in prayer towards Mecca, and the resulting queues of impatient motorists, have reignited the debate - never dormant in the country - on the insufficient number of mosques in the city. This year, for the first time, authorities have made a public space for celebrations available - a Hall in the Sokolniki Exhibition Centre - added to the four traditional mosques in Moscow.

According to reports by security forces, there were no accidents or collisions. Fontanka.ru newspaper reports that in Moscow and St. Petersburg, large groups of believers tried to settle down to prayer in the middle of roads or along the path of the tram, but the police intervened moving them to pedestrian areas or parks, in order to avoid tensions.

President Dmitry Medvedev sent his greetings to the community. "The tradition of good neighbourly relations between representatives of different peoples, faiths and cultures have deep roots in our country - said the head of the Kremlin in an official message - the Russian Muslim community plays a major role in maintaining it" .

But despite the fine words, the relationship between the leaders of the Islamic community and the central government are experiencing a period of increased friction. Some Mufti have accused the political authorities of favouring the Russian Orthodox Church and of wanting to divide and weaken the Muslim community driving it into ghettos, (see AsiaNews 23/12/2010 Russian Islamic leaders against the Kremlin).

At the same time, the tug of war over a new mosque to accommodate the growing Muslim community in the capital continues (see AsiaNews 23/08/2011 Moscow, a park instead of the new mosque), with the city administration delaying any decision on the matter and religious leaders who complain of discrimination and lack of space. Last week, the first vice president of the Russian Muslim Spiritual Centre of (TsDUM), the Mufti of Moscow and central Russia Krganov Albir, had warned the authorities: "Seeing masses of believers praying on the asphalt during the main Islamic holiday will send a negative image of Moscow to the Muslim world. "

Eid al-Fitr, the feast which marks the end of Ramadan and the closure of the Hajj pilgrimage, lasts three days. The third falls in conjunction with the great feast, Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. On this day Muslims commemorate the subjugation of Ibrahim (Abraham) to God, who ordered him to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Then Allah established the child be replaced with a kid goat, now the protagonist of the feast: the animal is slaughtered according to Islamic ritual and then consumed in a big lunch. From the point of view of the Koran, the festival celebrates obedience and sacrifice in the name of God

Finally, last night, a double suicide bombing hit the Chechen capital Grozny. The provisional toll is seven dead - including five policemen - and at least 18wounded. The attacks coincided with the celebrations for the end of Ramadan. The first explosion hit the Leninsky district, and was carried out by a militant linked to the extremist fringe. An hour later, however, a suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of onlookers who had, meanwhile, formed in the area.

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