The old part of Moscow’s main mosque has been demolished, causing mixed reaction among locals. The fact that this took place on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 also upset many Muslims.
The first response to the demolition was strongly negative. Ironically, days before the demolition, an architectural watchdog had filed an application to the Culture Ministry asking that the mosque be declared “an object of cultural heritage.”
“According to the country’s law, the application actually protected the building from any harm,” claimed Konstantin Mikhailov, head of the Moscow architectural watchdog.
The well-known mosque, located near Prospect Mira metro station, has long been under threat. Plans to demolish it were first drafted back in the late 1970s, but the public outrage was so intense that no one dared touch the building.
“Since 1978, no church buildings have been destroyed in Moscow,” said Mikhailov. “For the first time in 33 years, this shameful practice has been restored.”
The demolition has also poured some oil onto the fire that followed recent Eid ul-Fitr celebrations, when the capital’s Muslims were forced to pray in the streets as there were not enough mosques available. Moscow’s mosques can host around 10,000 people, while there are more than 100,000 believers in the capital.
Muslims were also confused by the fact that the mosque was demolished on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attack.
On the other hand, the mosque’s official site published a sermon by chief imam Ildar Alyautdinov, who claimed it was a good idea to demolish the old wooden building during reconstruction.
“The old mosque’s building does not have any historical significance,” added Ravil Gainutdin, head of Russia’s Muftis’ Council. “The decision to demolish it was made consciously, as part of reconstruction works.”
The owner of the mosque promised that the new building would recreate the construction of the old one. He also argued that choosing 9/11 as the date for demolition was a mere coincidence as the walls of the old mosque had started to decay, so it was deemed necessary to demolish them as soon as possible.
“The mosque was built a century ago and the materials weren’t of the highest quality,” Rushan Khazrat, deputy chairman of the Mufti Council of Russia, told RT. “There was a crack in the wall and after the rain this weekend the wall collapsed. Demolishing the building was the only safe option. But the news was picked up by the media with the wrong angle.”