|Dmitry Medvedev and Mufti Ravil Gaynutdin|
By Paul Goble
Furious that Moscow did not consult them before giving its approval, residents in Moscow’s South-Eastern Administrative District are organizing to block the construction of a mosque in their neighborhood, an action they say will deprive them of a park, depress property values, and attract undesirable visitors to their neighborhood.
A year ago, the district administrator met with Mufti Ravil Gainutdin, the head of the Union of Muftis of Russia (SMR), to discuss construction of a mosque, given that there is now only one mosque in the city for every 500,000 ethnic Muslims compared to one Orthodox church for every 40,000 ethnic Orthodox.
Muslims have long pressed for the opening of more mosques in the Russian capital, something that officials have sometimes supported out of concern that in the absence of official mosques, Muslims will turn to underground ones but a step that the Russian Orthodox Church and many ethnic Russians oppose as a threat to the historical image of the city.
This issue began to heat up when the local newspaper, “Yugo-vostochny kur’er” reported that Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov had formally taken a decision to offer Muslims space for “the construction of a mosque and Sunday school” in that Moscow district, a step he took without consulting the local population.
A group of residents of the South-Eastern Administrative District are now organizing to block the construction of a mosque in their neighborhood. To that end, they are calling for a mass public meeting next Saturday and have disseminated an appeal that seems certain to exacerbate ethnic and religious tensions in Moscow.
That appeal reads as follows:
“By a decision of the mayor of Moscow and the prefecture of the South-Eastern Administrative District, the only green section of land in our district across the road from House Eight on the Volga Boulevard has been set for the construction of a mosque and a medrassah.
Copies of the corresponding documents and publications in the official press you can find here.
Goble's story continues here.