Putin opens reconstructed Central Mosque in Moscow

SHAFAQNA - Russian President Vladimir Putin opened on Wednesday Moscow’s Central Mosque on the eve of Eid Al-Adha, after a decade of reconstruction works. It is regarded as the largest mosque in Russia and Europe. 

Turkish President Recep Erdogan, Palestine’s leader Mahmoud Abbas and several Arab and Muslim officials and diplomats attended the opening ceremony upon an invitation by Putin. 

The historic mosque was built in 1904, then renovated in 2005. Later it was demolished in 2011, during which it was one of four mosques in Moscow. 

The decision to demolish the mosque was taken after the Russian authorities came to the conclusion that a total reconstruction was necessary because the old building had partially caved due to heavy rain and was no longer safe. 

Another reason the authorities have given was that the mosque was deviated by several degrees from Qibla, the direction toward the Holy Kaaba in Makkah. 

Despite the authority’s justification, the demolishing of the historical mosque was widely denounced by several organizations and Muslim leaders. It was also met with a huge backlash from the Muslim community. 
This was mainly because of the date Russia set for the demolishing works, which was on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. 

Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Council of Muftis Rushan Abbyasov said that the mosque now has six floors that cover a space of 19,000 square meters, and that it is expected to accommodate more than 10,000 worshippers. The mosque is currently the largest in Russia. 

The reconstruction of the mosque costs $170 million, of which the Russian businessman and senator Suleyman Kerimov had donated around $100 million to the project in memory of his father. The list of donors also included Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas who donated $26,000 and Turkey which donated a minbar (pulpit from which the imam delivers Friday’s sermon) and a mihrab (a semicircular niche that points to Makkah, and the place where the imam prays at). 

The walls and ceilings of the mosque have traditional Russian ornamental inscriptions, which were carved by Turkish artisans, and the dome and pavilions are covered with 12 kg of gold leaf. 

Russia plans to build several new mosques to keep up with the significant growth of the Muslim population. 
Russia is the home to 23 million Muslims and Islam is the second largest religion. Muslims account for 17 percent of the total population, coming next to Christianity who makes up 46.8 percent.

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