Islam Thrives as Russia's Population Falls

December 3, 2006


Source: Toronto Star

MOSCOW-A steady stream of devout Muslims pours into the Sobornaya Mosque on a cold, grey Friday afternoon. The Arabic call to prayer echoes incongruously among Soviet-era apartment buildings and monolithic relics of Moscow's 1980 Olympics.

As usual, the mosque's blue walls cannot contain the hundreds of people looking to pray.

"I'm sorry, it's full," a bearded man in a white skullcap repeats again and again to worshippers showing up at the doors.

Soon, the courtyard outside the mosque is crammed with men removing their hats and shoes to pray. Some lay down elaborate prayer mats of finely woven silk; others settle for tattered newspapers. When the men kneel in the direction of Mecca, their foreheads press against hard concrete.

Attending the prayers with his 8-year-old son, Zabir Valeev can hardly hide his frustration at having to pray under these conditions. The two come to the Sobornaya Mosque nearly every Friday and are often forced to pray outside.