News / Europe

Moscow's Large Muslim Community Faces Violence, Suppression

Moscow’s Muslim Community Defined by Street Prayers, Pogromsi
X
October 16, 2013 12:54 PM
For more than a generation, Paris, London and Berlin have all experienced surges in their Muslim populations. Now it is Moscow’s turn. James Brooke reports on how Russia’s capital is adapting to this religious and demographic challenge.
Moscow’s Muslim Community Defined by Street Prayers, Pogroms
James Brooke
Moscow is now home to 2 million Muslims - more than any other city in Europe.
 
So when the faithful gathered Tuesday for the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday, tens of thousands of men unrolled their prayer mats on the asphalt of Moscow’s streets. Last year, they prayed outside in rain and snow.
 
Looming overhead were the new minarets of the Moscow Cathedral Mosque, a century-old mosque that is now being expanded. It is one of only four mosques in all of Moscow.
 
“Certainly mosques are needed. Mosques are needed in each micro-district,” said Abdul Bari Sultanov, a Russian Muslim from Tatarstan, a historically Muslim region, after prayers Tuesday. “As well as madrassas, schools, imams so that people would be morally prepared for meeting their God.”
 
The Russian Orthodox Church is building 200 new churches around Moscow. In contrast, new mosque projects never win building permits.
 
Russian Muslim activist Geydar Dzhemal claims that the Kremlin blocks new mosques in Russia’s capital.
 
“They understand the politics of suppression -- direct suppression,” said Dzhemal, who has criticized Moscow’s policy on Islam since the Soviet days.  “And they don't understand that this will create problems for themselves much worse then those they are trying to understand now.”
 
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has vowed that no new mosques will be built in Moscow. He claims that the Muslims praying in streets on holidays are largely Central Asians, guest workers who will eventually go home.
 
“It has turned out that the praying Muslims are not at all Russian citizens and they are not Moscow residents,” Sobyanin recently told Ekho Moskvi. “They are labor migrants. There are only 10 percent of Moscow residents among them and building mosques for everyone who wants it - I think this will be over the top,” continued the mayor.
 
“Muscovites now get irritated by people who speak a different language, have different manners, with aggressive behavior,” he added.
 
Sobyanin, a Kremlin ally, won last month’s mayoral elections. He seems to know what voters are thinking. On Sunday, Slavic residents in a working class Moscow neighborhood rioted against Central Asians and Caucasians. “Russia Forward! Russia Forward!” they chanted.
 
The spark that set off the incident was the stabbing death last week of a young Slavic Russian man. An immigrant from Azerbaijan was arrested in the case on Tuesday.
 
  • Moscow has one mosque for 500,000 Muslims. On religious holidays, like Eid Al-Adha, tens of thousands of faithful pray in streets specially blocked off near mosques, Moscow, Oct. 15, 2013. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • Police line a pedestrian tunnel connecting Prospect Mira (Peace Avenue) Metro station and the Cathedral Mosque area, Moscow, Oct. 15, 2013. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • Vendors sell colorful, durable mats for praying on the pavement in Moscow, Oct. 15, 2013. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • Twin minarets of Moscow's new Cathedral Mosque rise over the green painted madrassa, a religious school which dates to the original construction in 1904. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • Some men arrived as early as 2 am for prayers that started at sunrise -- 8 am in Moscow, Oct. 15, 2013. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • Tens of thousands of faithful occupied almost every corner of Schepina Street, near the Cathedral Mosque in Moscow, Oct. 15, 2013. (Vera Undritz)
  • Vendors sell prayer beads and skull caps, Moscow, Oct. 15, 2013. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • Men pray in the streets of Moscow, Oct. 15, 2013. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • Men complete their prayers on a closed street, Moscow, Oct. 15, 2013. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • A man completes his prayers on a closed street, Moscow, Oct. 15, 2013. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • Blue construction workers barracks stand next to the concrete shell of the Cathedral Mosque which is to be completed by 2015, Moscow. (Vera Undritz for VOA)


Analysts called the anti-immigrant riot a modern day pogrom. While police released most of the rioters, they detained 2,000 migrant workers for identity checks. Politicians called for banning apartment sales to foreigners and for imposing visa restrictions on migrants from the southern Muslim nations that only a generation ago were part of the Soviet Union.
 
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Isolda Kukushkina moved to Moscow from Ukraine, a nation often seen as Russia’s cultural and religious cradle. On Tuesday, near the Moscow Cathedral, she looked at the rivers of Muslim men who flowed past her Orthodox Church, dedicated to St. Philip and worried about Moscow’s future.
 
“It will be Muslim, I am afraid,” she said. “Believe me I like them, but Moscow must be Slavic. It should be somehow balanced. But this influx of immigrants influences our life in a bad way,” said Kukushkina.
 
For now, Moscow’s future is playing out on the streets, defined by prayers - and pogroms.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: INDIAN from: INDIA
October 18, 2013 8:12 AM
Russia have not at all learned from the disintegration of the Soviet Union and Future disintegration is on the way... In hostile and war like conditions from which countries Russia will get immediate help from Finland,Poland,Ukraine,Estonia OR Kazakhstan,Turkmenistan,Uzbekistan. Muslims are part of Russian society and Russians should accept them as early as possible if not Western Powers are waiting to take rid of it......

by: Just_A_Thought_79 from: US
October 18, 2013 8:00 AM
I don't see anything wrong with this at all. If you study the muslim expansions throughout the last 1,500 years, you will see a systematic approach of friendly immigration, followed by vocal calls for more rights for muslims, followed by violence if those calls aren't met the way they want, then, if the violence is successful, suppression of every other way of life. Russians are smart to take a stand against muslims, I wish more Americans had a backbone like Russians.

by: chiminginwithtruth
October 17, 2013 11:51 AM
And now, you will not allow my comment to appear, because it is perfectly normal for the media to sensor the truth nowadays. I hope I'm wrong though, and you are in fact in favour of free speech.

by: chiminginwithtruth
October 17, 2013 11:49 AM
What are we to look forward to, once the Muslim populations grow even more? Status that is equal to how Christians are treated in Egypt? How about how Christians are treated in Pakistan? How about in Indonesia, particularly in the Aceh province, where Christians are being driven out? Arab Christians are currently leaving the Arab world - their homeland - in their droves. An Arab version of a 'pogrom'. So, VOA... why don't you report on this? Hmmmmm?

And, I've only covered the situation with Christians living in the Muslim world. What I have not covered is how atheists are treated there.

If you are an atheist and living in a Muslim country, do you let everyone know about your non-beliefs? The fact you were once a Muslim, but have now left that all behind? If you live in Pakistan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Yemen, Egypt etc etc, do you talk about how you left Islam, and are now an atheist? No, you don't. You keep that to yourself, because at best, you will be disowned by your family. At worst, you will end up as a murder victim (as Muhammad said 'whoever leaves his Islamic religion, kill him'). Either way, persecution is as certain as sun rise & sun set.

by: chiminginwithtruth
October 17, 2013 11:48 AM
Muslims migrate to non-Muslim lands, then outbreed the non-Muslims that live there. This is how they take over countries. The same is happening in Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Philippines, China, India & many African and European countries. Gaddafi said 'We have 50 million Muslims in Europe. There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe - without swords, without guns, without conquest - will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades'.

by: Maithe from: Paris, France
October 16, 2013 2:17 PM
Pogroms?! What??
How can you use such a terrible word ?
I do hope you don't really know what you are talking about. And if you don't know it's amazing... for a foreign correspond based in Russia.
Go to any dictionary and have a look at Cossacks against Jews in Russia. And you will find : slaughters, destruction, cruelty. Death again and again.
It doesn't seem to me it's the case with Muslims in Moscow today.
In Response

by: Jim Brooke from: Moscow
October 16, 2013 2:56 PM
Pogrom is a word used by Russian analysts. Yes, it is overkill, but you had 2,000 migrants detained and hundreds of anti-Muslim rioters slapped on the wrist. A pale version of the Black Hundreds, but a lineal descendant. Jim Brooke/Chisinau

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs