Moscow residents protest building of new Mosque

(From the Moscow Times)

City Hall has shelved plans to build a mosque in the Mitino area, one day after a massive unsanctioned protest by inhabitants of the northwestern neighborhood. The decision was made by the city’s urban planning commission Thursday after authorities received a large number of complaints from citizens, local prefect Vladimir Goverdovsky told reporters, Interfax reported.

About 2,000 people gathered outside a high-rise apartment complex in Mitino late Wednesday to protest the construction of a large Muslim center, to include a mosque, on a nearby field. A video posted on YouTube showed people chanting “no mosque!”

Toward the end of a three-minute video shown here, recorded around sunset, people sing an Orthodox prayer while Leonid Simonovich, founder of the fundamentalist Union of Orthodox Banner-Bearers, gestures with a cross in his hand.

A prominent Muslim leader criticized authorities for allowing the protest to be hijacked by nationalists. “This is very dangerous, especially in places like Mitino,” said Abdul-Wahid Niyazov, an adviser to Ravil Ganutdin, chairman of the Council of Muftis.

Niyazov said Mitino is home to a higher-than-average number of migrants, many of them Muslims. He also recalled plans to construct a mosque in the city’s southeastern Tekstilshchiki district, where anti-Islamic sentiment led to similar protests in 2010. Last year, authorities said the land earmarked for that mosque would be turned into a park.

Muslim leaders have long complained that the capital’s four mosques cannot accommodate the city’s 2 million Muslims. But City Hall has been reluctant to support the Council of Muftis’ demands to build mid-sized prayer houses in each of the capital’s 12 administrative districts while keeping the central Cathedral Mosque, currently undergoing reconstruction to hold up to 10,000 worshippers, as the main prayer house.

Read the full story here from the Moscow Times.